Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Ian Forrest
Reviewer: Hannah Piercy
Vibrant, bright and full of life: from the moment you enter the auditorium to see a set adorned in all the splendour of a Mediterranean market town, the tone is set for an energetic spin on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, a play of double trouble about two sets of twins. Separated as children, the identity of the two Antipholi is mistaken by almost everyone in the town of Ephesus. Yet Martin Johns’s set is not only beautiful in itself; it is deployed to great effect, as characters appear in its various doorways and windows to establish a sense of the mad bustle of life in Ephesus. The façade of a house in the centre is perfect for comic chases, the cast appearing and disappearing in a joyous blur.
Almost every aspect of this production furthers delight in its exaggerated slapstick humour. Props are used innovatively, as Dromio and Antipholus form a giant cross from carpet rolls, while the wonderful score ensures the show is full of character. The Comedy of Errors is a difficult play to pull off, but Theatre by the Lake’s production takes the ridiculousness of the plot and runs with it (often literally!). We don’t need to completely believe in the plot’s twists, turns, confusions and miraculous reconciliations to enjoy the show; indeed, part of the enjoyment comes from laughing at just how absurd Shakespeare’s play can be.
The cast demonstrate the absolute commitment slapstick comedy requires to ensure its success: the energy Cate Cammack (as Adriana) pours into her speeches renders them thoroughly entertaining, avoiding any sense of tedious complaint which might be felt when reading the play. James Duke and Bryn Holding are a perfect pair as Dromio and Antipholus of Syracuse; their exaggerated gestures, such as a particularly funny sketch hiding behind a newspaper, add a memorable spark to the play. But James Duke and Chris Hannon, the two twin Dromios, are perhaps the ultimate stars of the play. Left on stage at the end, it is these two characters’ comic entrances, misunderstandings and beatings which really stand out. Nonetheless, the whole team deserve commendation, the minor multi-rolled characters who wander in and out of the scene providing no small part of the comedy.
This production really does bring Shakespeare to life, demonstrating how funny the Bard still is today. Its weak points are its long, extended explanations; the beginning is initially difficult to get into, and in the second half there are areas where the mind wanders from the performance. Peter Rylands as Egeon, the two Antipholi’s father, does a great job of bringing his expository opening speeches to life, but the nature of the speeches renders it almost impossible for them to be entertaining to today’s audience. However, while the laughs don’t appear straight away, it’s well worth the wait. Shakespeare’s play has its faults and difficulties for a modern audience, but this is nonetheless a fantastic performance to enjoy; one which will leave you with not only the catchy musical score, but peals of laughter ringing in your ears.
Runs until Saturday 8th November|Photo Keith Pattison