A revival of the iconic Aussie musical comedy Venetian Twins is going off at New Theatre at the moment. Director Mackenzie Steele speaks to Garrett Bithell.
According to director Mackenzie Steele, sometimes we need to be reminded of the simple joy of rollicking silliness on stage. His production of the musical comedy Venetian Twins, on now at the New Theatre, has this uncomplicated aspiration at its heart.
Written by Nick Enright and Terence Clark, Venetian Twins is an irreverent and inventive collision of slapstick comedy, broad farce and vaudeville. Centred on identical twin brothers Zanetto and Tonino – one sophisticated, the other naive – who turn up at the same time in the same town, unaware of each other’s presence, mayhem quickly ensues.
“It’s fun,” Steele tells SX. “It’s inherently Australian, embracing its own dagginess without being cringe-worthy. It has that knockabout irreverent quality in the writing – the libretto takes the piss out of itself. If you try to get too deep about it – which some theatre analysts can't help but do – then you’re missing the point. It’s creative fun. And it’s camp in that irreverent way that appeals to Australian larrikin sensibilities.”
Venetian Twins is based on the play by Carlos Goldoni, which is an 18th century commedia dell'arte classic. “What interested me about the characters – who are based on commedia stock characters – is how wonderfully heinous they are,” Steele says. “There’s like a perverse instant gratification and a disposability of relationships that I think is very pertinent to Gen Y/Zs. There’s also the idea of gullibility, dissemblance and deception – Zanetto’[s fair-dinkum narrow-minded attitude ultimately leads to his death, so there’s a dark side underneath. That being said, I stick to my original point: don't get too serious about it. It’s not an angsty piece.”
With a nine-strong cast backed by a nine-strong band, the production certainly fills the New Theatre space. “This Enright/Clarke version takes the original story out of the Italian setting and mashes it up in a world that's sort of 1970s outback Australia meets urban Italy of the 18th Century,” Steele laughs. “Pure gold! And it mixes into it eclectic music, borrowing from opera, vaudeville, Brecht, golden-age music theatre, and even Aussie folk songs.”
[Image] Director Mackenzie Steele (centre) with the cast of Venetian Twins.
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown, until December 15. Bookings at www.newtheatre.org.au