To close their 80th birthday celebrations, it would have been an easy option for Belper Players to take the safe route and produce something popular along the lines of Ayckbourn, Bennett or Pinter.
Instead they chose to celebrate with a play written by an Italian some 270 years ago. Carlo Goldoni’s comedy ‘A Servant To Two Masters’ is his most popular play. Based upon the Commedia Dell’Arte style of theatre, it has been translated and adapted internationally with at least nine versions in circulation. This version was translated by Lee Hall, best known as the writer of Billy Elliot.
The plot revolves around Truffaldino, a man who is constantly hungry. When the opportunity presents itself, he becomes a servant to a second master, guaranteeing himself two dinners every day. Food is at the centre of his life as he races around Venice trying with increasing desperation to fulfill both masters wishes .
To get the most out of this production I have three suggestions. Firstly, I’d suggest that you forget you are in a ‘theatre’ and imagine that you are in Venice watching theatre on the street. Secondly, do not expect subtlety. These are larger than life characters from a different age. Thirdly, expect to laugh… a lot. The atmosphere is helped when you are greeted by ‘masks’ as you enter the hall and the music adds autheticity.
Director Sheila Kay Sly has assembled a highly talented cast who obviously share her vision of the piece. She should be applauded for undertaking it. Equally, Belper Players deserve plaudits for backing the play. The Players have access to a rich vein of performers and this has been reflected in the quality and divergence of productions during the past few years. It is a golden period for them and A Servant To Two Masters continues the excellence.
Larry Waller is in his element as Truffaldino. He revels in the role which is both wordy and physical. His involvement with the audience certainly adds to the feel of street theatre. I’m also going to single out Megan Gibson (Clarice) for a special mention. Her scene with the excellent Kay Swann (Smeraldina) in the First Act was a comic masterclass. And it’s worth the price of admission to see Sarah Holme as the constantly chuntering Waiter.
The cast features Ben Turner, Paul Davies, Jeremy Crane, Alyson Koe, Keren Adler, Josh Sly and Roger Whiting.
Jamie Vella is to be congratulated on the excellent lighting and sound with Alan Kennedy supplying the original music.
In conclusion, I’d urge you to go and see A Servant To Two Masters. It is a glorious way to celebrate the Players birthday.
A Servant to Two Masters is staged at Strutts Community Centre, Derby Road, Belper. Performances are at 7.30pm each evening until November 12 with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.
Tickets are £10 and £9 from www.belperplayers.com or 07582 416610.
By George Gunby