tue 23/07/2019

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare's Globe | reviews, news & interviews

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare's Globe

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare's Globe

A family reunion makes for jolly slapstick in one of the Bard's early works

Double trouble: Antipholus (Matthew Needham) and Dromio (Jamie Wilkes) suffer the slings and arrows of mistaken identityMarc Brenner

It begins sombrely, with the grave recounting of a shipwreck, but such emotive moments are fleeting: as the drama ratchets up, it only serves to fuel the splendid zaniness of Shakespeare's 1594 farce. Granted, it's not his most nuanced comedy – the wordplay is relatively unsophisticated, and there’s a greater reliance on confusion, pratfalls and repetition – yet in Blanche McIntyre’s spirited production, it is, indisputably, an awful lot of fun.

The convoluted plot involves not one, but two sets of separated twins, a baffled spouse, an aggrieved merchant, and a father facing execution. The latter should, in theory, add a sense of urgency, but is quickly forgotten amidst the chaos. With a handful of scenarios repeated endlessly – someone mistakes one of the twins for the other, one of the twin masters berates the wrong twin servant, or vice versa – the recycled action could quickly become tiresome.

The Comedy of Errors, GlobeThankfully, McIntyre’s inventive staging offers great variety, with fights involving ladders, ropes, fish and collapsing pillars, and confrontations ranging from histrionic to convincingly impassioned. The only misstep during an energetic 140 minutes is an ill-advised tangent involving an abbess (Linda Broughton), a bizarre misogynistic rant and a preposterous twist that begs to be excised. Otherwise, we're treated to a delightful crescendo of misunderstandings, beginning with light seduction and undeserved scolding and ending with arrest, swordplay and accusations of insanity.

Such misfortunes are not afforded the weight of comparable dark passages in comedies like Twelfth Night or The Merchant of Venice, so it's to the cast’s credit that a few dramatic beats land. Hattie Ladbury does sterling work to turn irate Adriana from shrew to frustrated woman in midlife crisis, wondering who she is now that Antipholus no longer desires her, and proves more than a match for both husbands.

Husky-voiced Becci Gemmell, as her sister Luciana, quivers with desire when wooed by Simon Harrison’s touchingly earnest Antipholus of Syracuse (above, with Brodie Ross and Emma Jerrold), whose suspicion of this apparently enchanted place is swiftly allayed by the offer of trinkets and feminine charms. Brodie Ross, as his servant Dromio, also does well with a straight-man role, breaking into wounded peevishness when beset with incomprehensible attacks.

The Comedy of Errors, GlobeBut in the battle of the twins, Matthew Needham (left) and Jamie Wilkes triumph as the Ephesus master and servant, blessed with crisp diction and impeccable timing. Needham’s Antipholus is a sardonic dandy, more perturbed by damage to his stylish image than his wife’s rejection, while Wilkes proves a masterful raconteur, particularly when accompanied by props. Peter Hamilton Dyer brings laconic majesty to Solinus, Gershwyn Eustache Jr is a canny Balthasar and Stefan Adegbola revels in Pinch’s carnival bedlam, but James Laurenson speeds through Egeon’s lines as though late to catch a train.

If pressed, one could spot some commentary on the absurdity of social roles and slipperiness of identity – “Am I myself?” wonders Dromio. But there’s nothing complex about the sweet conclusion, in which the joy and wonder of connection sweeps away all that came before it.

If pressed, one could spot some commentary on the absurdity of social roles and slipperiness of identity

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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