08 November, 2007

Arlecchino: A Servant to Two Masters


Arlecchino: Servant of Two Masters, by Ferruccio Soleri
28th Oct 2007 14:30 @ Sha Tin Town Hall
Well, I'm not a theatre fan, but I always enjoy watching performances of all kinds. The only reason for me to buy a ticket to this show is the respect toward seniority. The simple fact that Master Soleri is 78 years old and still playing the role of a cheerful and witty young servant is somthing one must not miss the chance of appreciating with one's own eyes.
And it turns out that the performance does live up to its name.
The stage may appear to be simply at the first sight but is a rather faithful representation of how an on tour theatre was like in the old days when it had to travel from towns to towns and found a spot in an open market for the crowd. We, the modern audience are inside an enclosed indoor theatre, watching another group of 'audence' on stage in the setting of an open theatre who are watching the performance on the mini open stage together with us. Every now and then, the 'audence' on the stage would switch roles with the performers on the mini stage. That interaction extends to the the modern audience effectively, blurring the limitation of time and language barriers. Piccolo Teatro di Milano is really fantastic!
Not untill after the show is over, when Master Soleri lifts the black mask cum hairband and reveals his silver hairs, was I reminded of his advanced age. Through out the show, his body movement has been humourous and lively, just as befitting the character and no one would have suspected otherwise even for a second about the age issue. Maybe to some, the tricks that makes the audience laugh seem to be too common. I would argue that thanks to such commonality that this commedia dell'arte in various Italian dialects can earn the heartfelt laughter of audience across the world. There is one point really uncommon about Master Soleri does not do anything funny or laughable when he tickles the audience's funny bone. I walked out from the theatre, feeling very grateful that I was able to catch the chance of enjoying this wonderful show, with due respect, before it is too late! (Just as how I felt after watching the live performance of Ibrahim Ferrar of Buena Vista Social Club in Hong Kong -- I won the ticket by joining a SCMP competition :) )
Before the performance started, I found myself surrounded by a group of students in their early teens, probably from the EFS or Internation Schools. The girl sitting next to me asked her classmate what the story was about. It looked like that only one of them had read the play or the plot beforehand. However, the ignorance clearly did not get in their way of enjoying the show -- it's a vivid evidence of the success and magic of this commedia dell'arte. Still I couldn't help but getting very pleased with myself for having done the reading of the following books couple days before going to the show. Some critics lamented at how nowadays people's reading habit is dominated by Hollywood's pick of classics. I confess that I'm one of those 'movie-goer-turn-reader' people. The same applies to watching other performances. The only different is, I'll pick up the book after going to the movie, but I'll do the reading before going to watch live-performance because I hatre to find myself trying to catch up what's going on the stage with the far away subtitle boards.

A servant to two masters / by Carlo Goldoni ; a new adaptation by Lee Hall ; from a literal translation by Gwenda Pandolfi.

Publisher: London : Methuen, 1999.

ISBN: 0413748502

Location: TSW: 822 HAL

哥爾多尼戲劇集 / [意大利]哥爾多尼著 ; 孫維世, 劉遼逸, 焦菊隱譯.

出版者: 北京 : 人民文學, 1999.
內容: 一僕二主 / 狡猾的寡婦 / 說謊人 / 女店主.
ISBN: 7020027482
Location: TSW: 888 6073
The English adaptation is of course highly readable and a readily performable play in itself. The Chinese translation is quite un-chinese but there is a good reason to it: It certainly retains all the elements in the original Italian form and substance -- I find it easier to back translate the lines into European sentences, then trying to press on with my mind set to the Chinese channel. The reading is bumpy but it most faithfully present the original plays to the reader. In translation theory jargon, the alienation effect is an effort of bring the reader to the cultural and setting of the original text. More effort is required of from the reader to go there, but the journey is certainly a worthwhile one.

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