Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Nicole Evans
The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays and his shortest ever written. A farce by name and nature, it is renowned for its slapstick humour, ridiculous antics and clever word play. Propeller, whose aim is to give audiences the chance to ‘rediscover Shakespeare’, bring their interpretation of the play to The Belgrade this evening, can they do the great work justice?
As we take our seats the all male cast are already in character as they weave their way through the audience offering humorous banter and interaction to the tune of improvised, Latin background music. The play begins as the company take their places on the stage – an unchanging simple set up of three metal grills, with three exits and a balcony of course – and we are transported to a cheesy, 80’s style Spanish holiday resort, complete with a football shirt clad mariachi band. You’d be forgiven at this point for wondering if you had stumbled into the wrong auditorium, as the costumes, music and general appearance certainly do not scream Shakespeare. As the play begins we are told the tale of two sets of twins who were separated on a sea voyage. With one twin of each pair having been rescued with one parent, each pair are unaware of the other’s existence. As Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio find themselves washed up in Ephesus, the home of their twin brothers, anticipation of the inevitable farce that is to follow starts to build. The action gets sillier and more furious as the two pairs, who happen to be identically dressed, cross paths, each fearing their companion has gone mad.
With such a fast paced, farcical plot, the opportunity for confusing the audience is great and the arrangement of the play is of huge importance. The balance between Shakespearean prose and modern life can be a difficult one to find but Propeller effortless drag the play into the 21st century and the comparisons work perfectly, and superb acting and top notch staging ensure we do not lose the plot.
The live music being played on stage provides not only an 80’s mega mix of holiday atmosphere, but also some impeccably timed comedy sound effects. The self dubbed ‘percussion corner’ picked very apt sounds for each and every hit and punch and a comical duck-like squeak raised laughs each time the Officer stepped around the stage.The whole cast, from those playing the main parts, to the Mexican ‘chain’ dinger succeed in making the performance a memorable one. With the entertainment continuing with a busking mariachi band interval performance, the stamina alone impresses. The prose is near perfect throughout and an outstanding performance of Antipholus of Ephesus’ long and fast paced monologue from Joseph Chance got a round of applause all of its own. Will Featherstone deserves a special mention as his performance as Dromio of Syracuse is in a league of its own. Pouring with charisma, he gives life to his character and steals the stage each time he is on.
Propeller’s production of The Comedy of Errors cannot be faulted. Quick witted, modern, relevant, yet retaining Shakespeare’s charm, they appeal to every single member of the audience individually, yet unite us together with laughter and enjoyment. There really is something in it for everyone. Not to be missed.
Picture: Dominic Clemence | Runs until February 15th