The Venetian Twins at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea

As You Like It, with Jessica Hayles centre. Picture by Keith Pattison

How do you like it? Gender and politics in Shakespeare at the New Theatre Royal

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Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy, translated by Ranjit Bolt, gets a welcome airing from the Southsea Shakespeare Actors at the Groundlings’ theatre this week.

In a plot appropriately Shakespearean in its use of twins, love and long-lost relatives , Steve Blackham’s cast pretty much pull off the fast and furious pace required by this beautiful farce.

Occasionally they’re not quite slick enough, not quite together enough for the gags to work (the repeated look to audience on entering the inn, for instance).

Sometimes, when they’re aware of being funny, some of the cast try that bit too hard; when they relax and trust to Goldoni and Blackham, the humour is generous, warm and engulfing.

Top marks to the brilliant Andy Thomas as the eponymous twins; his performances as the twin brothers are a creative joy. Lovely, lascivious work too, from Patric Howe as the slimy and repulsive Pancrazio; I mean it as a compliment when I say Howe makes your skin crawl.

Nick Downes believes, wholeheartedly, in the manic madness and has the measure of the stylised language, and Jennie Rawling – a new performer to this critic – is pleasing on the eye and ear as the spurned lover Beatrice.

Until Saturday.

JAMES GEORGE