PKU Australian Drama Program: ‘The Servant of Two Masters’ hugely successful premiere season
Following the glowing success of their 2014 production of COSI by Louis Nowra, Resident Director Kirsten von Bibra and the PKU Australian Drama Program took on an ambitious follow-up. The Program’s production of Australians’ Nick Enright and Ron Blair’s adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni should be considered a formidable accomplishment. Six performances took place at the Bayi Theatre (八一剧场) between December 3rd – 6th in no small part thanks to sponsor organisations; The Foundation of Australian Studies in China, Peking University, Peking University Australian Studies Centre, PKU Institute of World Theatre and Film and the Australia China Council.
In keeping with the Australian Drama Program’s mission to use theatre as a window through which to promote bilateral understanding, The Servant of Two Masters showcased a Australian theatre to adapt European classics and imbibe them with a distinctly Australian wit. It was clear that the Chinese performers themselves embraced this creative process from the opening of the play. The singing vibrato in Pantalone’s delivery elicited as many laughs as the mimicking of intellectual elitism in Dr. Lombardi’s over the top Latin decrees. Truffaldino, played by the only native English speaker in the production, had terrific chemistry with the cast and at no point did the performance feel stilted. Brighella’s asides to the audience were dripping with a wit so definitively Australian, delivered by a Chinese student in their second language was simply mesmerising. To pull off such an ambitious exercise dramatic irony is a testament to the hard work of both Kirsten von Bibra and the cast members. The PKU Drama Program, with the support of aforementioned sponsors, will no doubt to continue to provide a fantastic space for bilateral dialogue through the arts.