In the wake of Richard Bean’s much-lauded adaptation of Servant of Two Masters – the National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guv’nors, currently running on Broadway – one might see the decision to write your own adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s comedy as either redundant or naively optimistic. However, independent youth group General Silliness have stuck far more closely to Goldoni’s original piece, keeping it in its 18th century Venetian setting, though with occasional references to ‘Come Dine With Me’ and eBay.
The young cast are enthusiastic and fun to watch, and are clearly enjoying themselves. The farce is fairly well-done, though the multi-roleing does add an extra layer of complexity to an already relatively complex plot; it’s a familiar story, though, and the cast make important plot points overtly clear by holding up a sign to tell us to pay attention, so this shouldn’t put anyone off.
This is clearly a production in which everyone involved has put a lot of thought, care and love. The set is simple but well-used (a particularly nice moment with a hand puppet is one to watch out for), the costumes are effective indicators of character and the combination of masks and make-up clearly separates the servants from their masters.
At times, the performers lack the overblown confidence necessary to fully transport an audience along with them, but farce is difficult to do well, and it is worth remembering that they are all still quite young. The only problem with this is that it occasionally looks as if the performers are having more fun on stage than the audience is, which can make the play feel a little self-indulgent at times and, inevitably, some of the jokes do fall rather flat. But they have certainly done what they set out to do: it is very, very silly, and you’d have to be hard-hearted not to be engaged by their sense of fun.
Overall, in spite of a few flaws, the cast’s timing and commitment should make this one worth watching for any fan of the genre.
*** – 3/5 stars
Servant of Two Masters is playing at the Space on the Mile as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 11 August.