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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s Globe presents

The Comedy of Errors

 

Matthew Needham as Antipholus of Ephesus and Jamie Wilkins as Dromio of Ephesus in Blanche McIntrye's new production of Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare's Globe
Photo by Marc Brenner
 

by William Shakespeare

Directed by Blanche McIntyre

Designed by James Cotterill

Composed by Olly Fox

 

Shakespeare’s Globe

 

20 Aug – 12 Oct 2014

 

In a haze of embellished cloaks and lavish dresses, via a cast dancing a wonderfully choreographed arrangement, the tone of fun which persists through the production is set from the off. Flanked by its most indispensable prop – a lively and enthusiastic audience, the Globe stage is decorated with baskets of items primed for farce, opulent colourful materials, and a washing line full of bright white items suspended above the stage. Various jugs and jars hang around the main pillars and the musicians open on stage, ably doubling as members of the hissing and teasing Ephesian crowd. The subject of their scorn is an elderly gentleman named Egeon (James Laurenson) who quietly, perhaps too quietly for the Globe, tells a tale of woe about losing his entire family, consisting of wife, twin sons and twin servants as his defence against execution. Interjections from the gathered citizens detract from the potential solemnity of this speech, cementing the fun factor stamped on this production.

Music, directed by John Banks, is an ever-flourishing accompaniment to the foolery of the drama, particularly effective when the musicians are on the main stage amongst the villagers. Stephen Hiscock’s percussion is particularly rousing and Dai Pritchard’s wind instruments lend a magical, almost eerie air. When Antipholus of Syracuse (Simon Harrison) and his endearing side-sick Dromio (Brodie Ross) land at Ephesus they are oblivious to the seeming fortune awaiting them. It is clear that Ephesus has a reputation for strangeness but being fawned over by beautiful women, gifted money and priceless jewellery and beloved by townsfolk he’s only just met leaves Antipholus comically bewildered. His counterpart, Antipholus of Ephesus (Matthew Needham), is equally convincing in his perplexity as he is locked from his house, arrested and sees the affections of the townspeople he’s so well acquainted with sour.

Luciana (Becci Gemmell) endowed with a ‘servitude which serves to keep [her] unwed” is played in wonderful contrast to haughty and determined Adriana (Hattie Ladbury), Antipholus of Ephesus’ long-suffering wife. When the attention of her supposed brother-in-law is fixed upon Luciana, her swooning and mock recriminations provoke laughter. Ladbury, meanwhile, commands Adriana’s many speeches without losing a word. The women, desperate for a cure for Antipholus certain madness call on Pinch (Stefan Adegbola) who comes to the ineffectual rescue in a puff of gold glitter. While his sorcery is no cure for a man who is no madder than everyone about him, his presence is a curious and enthralling one.

The sturdy looking set is brought to ruin through numerous fights and tussles. Boisterous displays of fighting chase scenes and generous beatings punctuate the dialogue. At one point Dromio of Ephesus (Jamie Wilkes) replays the thrashing his master has given him with the aid of a gold tray and a loaf of bread which he mangles to bits before the remains end up in the crowd. Choreography by Georgina Lamb is both fun and busy, making for a tight ensemble feel. The comedy really leaps over the slapstick line quite regularly, with an occasional sprinkle of pop-culture references egging on the audience. A rubber octopus receives a robust beating, a downtrodden Dromio ends up with a turkey on this head and an impromptu game of quiddich (of Harry Potter fame) ensues when two other servants commence sweeping with brooms.

With The Comedy of Errors, slapstick and gravity don’t sit easily with one another, and so the director of this production seems to have pursued the entertainment aspect over the graver themes like individuality, fidelity and deliverance. In a setting like the Globe it seems a wise choice and enthusiastic groundlings are rewarded with audience interaction and glorious spectacle by way of costume and props.

As Shakespeare’s shortest play draws to its eventual conclusion, an air of expectant anticipation infuses the Globe. There’s no real mystery element in McIntyre’s The Comedy of Errors, which Shakespeare based on a Roman farce by Platus. This lively production pays faithful homage to the comedy intrinsic in blunders and confusion and is firmly fixated on ‘making merry’. This is an approach which makes promises a well entertained Autumn audience at the Globe.

 

Tickets: £5 standing / £15-£42 seats
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT
http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/
 
 

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