Sarah Singleton looks at the Western Players latest production

THE Venetian Twins, an 18th century comedy drama of love, poison and mistaken identity, is running at the Swindon Arts Centre this week.

Written in 1743 by Italian master dramatist Carlo Goldoni, the play has plenty of wit and slapstick foolery, and it still as fresh and funny more than two and a half centuries later.

It tells the story of identical twin boys who were separated at birth. As adults, by chance, both travel to Verona – one for an arranged marriage and the other to meet a girl who has run away from her family for him.

They are mistaken for each other and the resulting chaos includes duels, betrayals, arrests, a casket of stolen jewels and a death from poisoned wine.

The play was the comic hit of the 1994 Off-Broadway season, and will be performed in Swindon by the Western Players. The director is Godfrey Room, who also plays Barghello.

“Our director wanted to do something exciting and it’s a very funny play,” said Julia Edwards. “Goldoni was one of the first proponents of farce. It’s different – not like anything we would normally do. But we like to break new boundaries.”

Performed in 18th century period costume, the action includes some exciting sword-fighting.

“We used the services of a professional fight choreographer,” Julia said. “Something like that has to be well rehearsed and carefully choreographed.”

The Western Players have created an elaborate set, complete with an old city wall, an inn and a jewellers’ shop.

“We have a beautiful painted backdrop of Verona, and it is set in a doctor’s house,” Julia said.

The costumes – some of which were hired and a few made for the play – include swing coats for the men and boned corsets for the women.

The company, which puts on three productions a year, have been rehearsing The Venetian Twins since the end of August. Their last play was Murder Weapon, performed in the summer.

The Western Players began as the Great Western Railway (Swindon) Mechanics Institute Amateur Theatrical Society in the early 1900s, and celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2004, though subsequent research has traced the roots of the group back even further, to 1854.

The play runs every night till Saturday November 11, beginning at 7.30pm. Tickets are £13, concessions available. To book, visit, email,uk, or call 01793 524481, or 07575 711522.