The Venetian Twins Royal Lyceum Theatre

To a backdrop of jaunty Italian accordion music, the gaudily coloured stage curtains open to reveal Rosaura, the Provost’s daughter, preparing to meet her intended, Zanetto, for the first time. She looks pretty as a picture with her curly blonde hair and rosy cheeks but, as soon as she opens her mouth, we know she is no sophisticated lady – she has a broad Glasgow accent and a way with words only equalled by Mrs Malaprop or Hilda Baker in her heyday. Her servant Columbina is offstage, in the toilet to be precise, which she complains loudly is blocked again. There you have it right from the outset – this is not going to be a sophisticated witty comedy, what you are in for is an evening of full on, in your face, scatological humour with a pile of ancient but still laugh out loud jokes and a daft but endearing plot.

Venetian Carlo Goldoni was a prolific 18th century playwright with over 150 comic works to his name, his most famous being The Servant of Two Masters which has been updated most successfully recently as One Man, Two Guvnors. It was also, as The Servant o’ Twa Maisters, the first work performed by the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company nearly 50 years ago. In this production of The Venetian Twins, Director Tony Cownie has retained the Italian setting, characters and plot but has given them a gallus Glaswegian makeover.

Grant O’Rourke plays the twins of the title – country bumpkin Zanetto as well as his more sophisticated, pompous brother Tonino. I haven’t seen it yet but apparently O’Rourke is one of the stars of the Outlander TV series which has a big worldwide following. He did amazingly well to convey the two completely different characters and cope with their constant comings and goings. The plot revolves around mistaken identities and misunderstandings with a cast of colourful and over the top characters. The pace is fast and furious and needs great comic timing and rapport to make it work. The whole cast were excellent but special mention has to be made of Kern Falconer as the dozy old Irish innkeeper and James Pearson as Lelio.

Most of the jokes you will have heard before but I guarantee you will still get a belly laugh. I was particularly tickled by the joke about the zoo with “only wan dug in it”. I won’t spoil the punch line for you but maybe you’ve guessed it already… If you’re a fan of panto or farce, you will enjoy this night out at the theatre. If your tastes are more sophisticated, well why not put them on hold and go along anyway for a good laugh and a ray of Italian sunshine

Irene Brownlee