Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Malcolm Wallace
In the second production of Propellers’ current international tour this all male theatre troupe energetically bring to life Shakespeare’s farcical Comedy of Errors, one of his earliest and most frothy creations.
A precursor to modern farce, the Comedy of Errors is a simple tale of mistaken identity involving two sets of identical twins separated at a young age that in adulthood end up in the same place at the same time wreaking complete chaos with the citizens of Ephesus. True to the genre, everything comes right in the end but not before a whole host of silliness has ensured resulting in accusations of madness, jailings, seductions, beatings; all the usual ingredients of a slap stick farce.
However, despite the cast generating a fair amount amusement through the language of Shakespeare with their distinctly modern delivery of the text, a good portion of the humour is lost in the overly speedy delivery of lines and sloppy slap stick routines that don’t quite work and often begin to verge into the realms of pantomime. Pantomime certainly has its place on the theatre spectrum but this is not it. It’s a shame because there is some serious talent within the production that isn’t demonstrated to its full extent.
The setting as described in the programme is ‘a run-down piazza in a run-down port in a Tenerife or Capri lookalike’. This isn’t terribly clear from Michael Pavelka’s graffiti’d set (although its simplicity serves its function) and the mish mash of styles among the costumes adds to the confusion although there is no denying that the use of colour among the costumes is very effective.
As with all Propeller shows it is an ensemble effort with all cast members making significant contributions. Heading up the cast as Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus are Dan Wheeler and Joseph Chance, both of whom are comfortable in their rôles and speak with great clarity. As does Will Featherstone as Dromio of Syracuse who also provides many of the comic highlights of the evening. Disappointingly Matthew McPherson, who stole the performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the same company, makes much less of an impact and delivers his lines so fast so as to make many of them undecipherable. There is a most amusing cameo from Darrell Brockis as Pinch, a Conjurer seen here in the guise of an evangelical American preacher complete with show stopping number and Richard Pepper manages to flesh out the small rôle of the Officer to the audiences delight with a very funny opening to act 2.
Propellor has made a mistake in this tour of pairing Comedy with the far superior (material and production) Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both productions aim to inject a modern aesthetic into Shakespeare’s work but whereas Midsummer hits the nail on the head in every way, Comedy of Errors consistently misfires and although it has bags of energy, leaves one not quite fulfilled.
Runs until Sat 1st March