Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Dominic Hill
Curbed, like so many, by Covid, Dominic Hill’s returning production of Shakespeare’s somewhat estranged piece The Comedy of Errors may have had its original 2021 run condensed; it certainly makes up for the lost time.
The Greek city of Ephesus was the Las Vegas of its day. Except with fewer tribute acts. Gaudy, brash, hedonistic, flashy, and volatile – Ephesus is everything the city of Syracuse is not but boasts one hell of a night to be had. So, it’s no wonder that when the wealthy Antipholus of Syracuse, along with his servant Dromio arrive in the city, they become side-tracked from their initial venture in finding their Ephesian twin brothers whom share the name.
What unfolds is a precursory for the universal narrative trope of mistaken identities. Separated at a young age, one of the Antipholus brothers found fame, fortune, and frustration with a wealthy woman Adriana, performed exuberantly by the marvellously staunch and intimidating Esme Bayley. But underneath the folly of farce, creeping darkness persists – one of the executions of the brother’s father Egeon, a Syracusan forbidden from entering Ephesus, captured while seeking out his missing sons.
Located in a similar setting to its 2021 run within the allotment of the Scottish Opera Glasgow Studios, Jessica Worrall’s decadently gaudy post-school disco design is a sure-footed success and the ideal climbing frame for a strong cast of seven to spread sheer mania and energy to the masses. Capitalising on this sense of freedom are the principal players as the set of twins Angus Miller and Michael Guest who use trademark physicality and presence to alternate between their roles – and of course the alternating blue and pink hats for a quick shortcut for audiences.
Miller’s most distinctive duo between the two Antipholuses is a power-play, shifting from the submissive son of Syracuse and the loud, booming, and thrusting masculinity of his Ephesian counterpart. It’s balanced out by Guests’ more comedic presence, the genuine sense of sincerity offered by John Macaulay as the pair’s father, and several more character-driven roles.
If there was ever a fourth wall to Hill’s direction of comedy, it’s hiding in the corner now. Drifting around the stage, the venue, and the rafter – the actors bring a sense of casual to the production, occasionally interacting with the audience, or delivering their lines in a stand-up format with microphones and direct glance. Nikola Kodjabashia’s composition and sound do their utmost to maintain pace, aided by John Kielty’s live instrumentals and his playful nature with cartoonish effects all adding to the lunacy of this bizarre city.
The comedy itself is nuanced in places, a though constantly barraged at the audience in one form or another, is less the form of humour to split sides, and more the one to raise its arms and let you decide if it’s worth the breath. Benedicte Seierrp and Lucien MacDougall’s movement choreography is akin to a circus act in moments, particularly with the rubber-limbed Guest who either has one hell of an insurance packet, or a death wish for the beatings they are handed across the production more obvious and physical bouts of humour.
Shakespeare wrote The Comedy of Errors two years following The Plague which devastated Europe. One year from closing due to Covid, Hill’s production returns with welcoming arms from the Citizen’s Theatre. Refining the complexity of the narrative into a revised two-act production just over the ninety-minute mark, Hill’s distinguished ability to offer a fresh take on classics is on full throttle throughout, pushing the cast to their limits to deliver a high-octane slice of pure chaos and flickering slap-stick.
Runs at Scottish Opera’s Live at No.40 until September 3rd, then to Perth Horsecross Theatre from September 7th – 17th.