September 14, 2006

The Comedy of Errors @ The Swan Theatre

The last of the youth productions, and the only appearance of ‘Errors’ at the Festival, this was an excellent end to the mini-festival of Young Person’s Shakespeare, with a funny and fast production that truly captured the spirit of what is – I personally think – the funniest of Shakespeare’s comedies.

This production was by the Welsh College of Music and Drama- and in many ways it was nice to hear an accent used for comedy effect in ‘Richard III’ as the primary voice in this production. It also gave the production a real character and sense of place- Ephesus felt like a Welsh fishing village!

Gareth Rees (Dromio of Ephesus) and Thomas Brownlee (Antipholus of Syracuse)

Where this production blew the audience away was in the fast and excellent interaction between the four leads. The two Dromios kept up a constant patter and reaction, and were always entertaining to watch even if at the sides of the stage- while the two Antipholi got progressively more flustered and aggressive as the events snowballed to their climax.

Barely any of the plot was cut, the clever editing taking it down to 75 minutes by eliding the scenes, so that action flowed freely into the next scene. This also built up the rising sense of confusion, that resulted in several groups of characters all collecting on stage pointing rifles at each other. ‘Errors’ is a play that relies heavily on speed to make it work onstage, and the fast physical action of this production kept the audience in stitches throughout.

Elsewhere, the presence of a firing squad for Egeon gave the play a suitably sombre start, and the play’s dark undertones were fully addressed. The only confusing part was the very end, when one of the Antipholi reappeared on stage in near-darkness, raising his hand in some spiritual moment? This was unexplained, and unnecessary, as it took away from a very nice ending with the two Dromios running offstage hand in hand.

The performances were perhaps not as polished as one or two of the other student groups, but this is not a play that lends itself to received pronunciation and classical speaking- this is a play that thrives on spirit and a strong ensemble, and the group carried it off with a lot of style. An excellent production, and a wonderful way to finish the YP Shakespeare season.

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Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham and a reviewer of Shakespearean theatre for several academic journals.

The Bardathon is his experimental review blog, covering productions of (or based on) all early modern plays. The aim is to combine immediate reactions with the detail and analysis of the academic review.

Theatre criticism always needs more voices. Please comment with your own views and contributions!

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