La Casa Nova, AUB at the Palace Court Theatre, Bournemouth

ITALIAN playwright Carlo Goldoni is best known now for his The Servant of Two Masters, written in 1745 and adapted for a 21st century audience as One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean in 2011 and catapulting James Corden into international success.

The Venetian lawyer was a prolific writer, and in 1761 he wrote what he considered to be his best play, La Casa Nova. Now Arts University Bournemouth tutor Kenneth Robertson has decided to have a bit of fun with the play and present a One Play, Two Versions sort of thing, one set in the original time and another at some time around the present. Seven performing arts students of the 13 in the cast double their roles, playing the same characters in both plays, centuries apart.

The versatile set, designed by Izzy Cresswell, serves for both versions. Both stylish and impressive sets of costumes are designed by Maya Mansfield Catterall-King (period) and Emma Whie (modern) and created by the costume students at AUB, underlining again how exciting and unique it is for the performing arts, fashion, design, hairdressing, sound and lighting students to be able to work together on productions which are staged in a real, historic, theatre.

Frederick Davies has translated Goldoni, retaining the stylised Italian language for the original in which a young man fritters all his fortune to woo and wed a well-bred girl with no money and very expensive tastes, including an insistence on moving to a new, larger, home with canal views. The words, and the way they are delivered, are modernised for the version in which the new bride is a Milanese fashionista, the hapless husband dresses to please her, and she STILL wants a new home. The grandes dames in the apartment above are very traditional Italian in the “old” story and Americans in search of their heritage in the “new” version. The action moves between the reception room in Anzoletto’s Casa Nova and the corresponding room upstairs where the sisters live, and all by a revolving wall and a couple of brushstrokes.

There are some hilarious performances from the young actors, all of whom have grasped the chance to amplify the characters of these very funny Venetians. Adam Ellen-Martin’s Anzoletto has created a riot of facial expressions to illuminate his frustrations. Megan Barnwell, who plays the thoughtless wife in both plays, manages a magnificent transformation along with some truly hilarious moments of comedy. Brooke Monet, as Anzoletto’s teenager-in-love-without-a-dowry sister in the “old” version combines stately elegance with childish glee, and as her suiter Lorenzino, Finlay Whitfield is nicely ardent. Lucy Roise Hutchinson is a terrific maid, full of all those asides for which maids of the time are known (in the theatre, that is.)

The trio of workmen, Jake O’Mahoney, Teddy Sterry and Avery Kirin, update themselves to perfection between the plays. The sisters, played traditionally by Maja Lonnroth and Lucy Jane in the original, and by Scarlett Morris and Jada Bodden as the Americans in the updated version, are impressive for their perfect comedy timing. Henry Tran’s Lorenzino (modern) is full of explosive ardour and Lewis Feest is a very different Anzoletto the fashion victim.

Great fun, and very well done by everyone involved on and off stage. The next AUB show is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from 30th May to 1st June, again at the Palace Court Theatre.


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