The play was originally written by Goldoni in 1745 at the request of actor Antonio Sacco, one of the great Truffaldinos in history. Goldoni's earliest drafts had large sections that were reserved for improvisation, but he revised it in 1753 in the version that exists today.
The characters of the play are taken from the Italian Renaissance theatre style Commedia dell'arte. In classic commedia tradition, an actor learns a stock character (usually accentuated by a mask) and plays it to perfection throughout his career. The actors had a list of possible scenarios, each with a very basic plot, called a canovaccio, and throughout would perform physical-comedy acts known as lazzis and the dialogue was improvised.
One of the most successful recent production was of Lee Hall's translation by the Young Vic (2000), for which Jason Watkins received an Olivier Award nomination for his performance as Truffaldino
Thoughts from the Director
I saw "The Servant of Two Masters" as a youngster at the old Sheffield Playhouse many years ago. Thinking back, I can remember nothing about it at all except that I laughed a lot! I was then re-introduced to it a couple of years ago and couldn't wait to direct it for Tudor.
Of course, to bring out the humour and style of the play requires a highly talented cast and a very resourceful and imaginative crew. I have been blessed with both. It's been hard work bringing everything together at the right time, but I hope you will feel it's been worth it. If you laugh tonight as much as we have in rehearsals, we are all in for a very jolly evening! Now, who's for spotted dick?
Review, The Star 17Feb2011
Clarice's lover, Frederico, puts a spanner in the works when he rises from the dead to claim her hand in marriage. Silvio is none too pleased since he is engaged to Clarice. Florindo is confused as he slew Frederico. Of course, Frederico is in fact Beatrice, Florindo's lover and the late Frederico's sister. Confused? Don't worry. Let Truffaldino sort things out.
Truffaldino, played by Ross Bannister, is the eponymous central character and the best actor in the play. He foolishly takes on two masters in order to earn a bit more cash and food.
In one slapstick scene he is serving food to his masters, Beatrice and Florindo, simultaneously without them realising they are staying in the same inn.
Bannister delivers his dialogue in a straight fashion but there is lots of physical comedy and talking to the audience when things go wrong.
Conversely, Silvio, played by John Moran and Clarice, (Emma O'Neill) speak their lines as upper class aristocratic caricatures. Their high squeaky voices are reminiscent of Blackadder and Monty Python.
Hall's script is exceedingly witty. Rod Duncan as Dr Lombardi is a good example of this. He keeps talking to and walking away from Clarice's dad, Pantaloon in the manner of TV detective, Columbo, stopping short of actually saying, "and another thing".
Fran Larkin is also on good form as Beatrice/Frederico. Phil Gascoyne's direction deftly brings out the humour in this unusual style of play.