The Comedy of Errors – Little but LIVE!, Moseley Park

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Lucy Bird

‘Prithee prattling knaves and flighty wenches! Anon with thy jest and japes lest the seams of my doublet burst asunder under thy siege of wit.’*

With admirable disregard for the purists, Paperback Theatre has taken the surgeon’s knife with an incision precision approach to abridging the original text. Cutting away any and all extraneous expositional baggage. In with good/out with the flab’s their banner. The fun bits essentially and don’t they just run with it, literally in some cases with gallivantings all round the park, prat-falls, tripping over stage-canopy guy-ropes, near decapitated from low-hanging washing-lines, (these ingeniously acting as meta-character costume wardrobe) and possibly falling into the park lake. Call it dispersive, immersive theatre for the great outdoors. Stand/sit by for mistaken identity, Carry On Confusions and a rounding kick up the farce: picnics optional – well-behaved dogs and children welcome.

It’s a roller coaster, rollicking sixty-minute romp turned up to eleven with comedy Copper’s helmet audience guest spots included. It’s guile with style, tart but smart, with an assured company which knows its craft and lines with serious intent and study. In days gone by this giddy ensemble, show-in-suitcase touring troubadour was pitch-perfect for visiting schools. A revelatory experience for wide-eyed wonder-filled kids. Good luck with that today, though The RSC are visiting The Nelson Mandela School with Twelfth Night this month.

Young, eager to please, inspired and inventive – forsooth – disturbingly talented, this motley troupe of two men, and two women show wisdom beyond their tender years, coupled with abandoned gusto. Sadly, no pre-show credits flier precludes any name-checks, but with that said, each assumes such a panoply of machine-gun schlock and awe character changes, it hardly matters. The duplicate expositional climax reveal with the twin-Hawaiian shirt swop conceit is a contrivance of near genius. Moseley Park shimmers in the sunlit autumnal embers of crispen, fallen leaves. A back-score of low-flying aircraft, restless toddlers, neighbours’ mechanical-digger garden make-over, barking dogs and lakeside ducks and drakes quack – an inclusive heckling tableau of ambience and credibility. Paperback’s right-on. A Lark in The Park indeed.

This production was part of a series of Little but LIVE! free/small fee events happening over the weekend at Moseley Park supported by Arts Council England.

*(After Michael Green, The Art of Coarse Acting)

Runs Until 18 September 2022

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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