Tuesday, 1 August 2006

The Comedy of Errors - Shakespeare's Globe 2006

The Comedy of Errors
Shakespeare's Globe, London, UK. 

The Comedy of Errors, with its themes of miscommunication and mistaken identity, is one of Shakespeare’s more farcical comedies, presenting a director with numerous opportunities to add to the confusion and slapstick within the play. Christopher Luscombe takes up this challenge, looking for inspiration to 1960's comedy classics such as Carry On Cleo and Up Pompeii to create an odd but brilliant fusion of cultures and expectations in this latest offering from the Globe.

The stage itself is set up to allow maximum confusion, with doors either side set back into narrow and crooked alleyways, allowing multiple exit strategies for the characters. Central double doors, rather grand and guarded by stone lions, lead into Adriana’s house. Just outside of these doors are a rather modern doorbell and a primitive intercom system (later to be the cause of much hilarity). The balcony above serves as the inside of the house, with a sumptuously set table flanked by marble busts of Antipholus and Adriana.

The costuming is mainly in the Roman style, but with a nod to the 1960s in the rather excessive hairstyling and lavish eye make-up of the ladies, and the near-scandalous mini-dress worn by the Courtesan. The music too, has the flavour of a Carry On tribute, and familiar comedy sound effects punctuate the physical aspects of the play - the punches, tweaks, falls, and gratuitous bending over. We are treated to more than one chase scene, and best use is made of all possible innuendo. Luscombe even manages to throw in a couple of ‘Phwoars’ and some rather wonderful Frankie Howerd impersonations via Angelo (Chris Emmett).

Andrew Havill is a rather goofy and innocent Antipholus of Syracuse, accepting the goodwill offered him with an air of happy wonderment. He looks strikingly similar to Simon Wilson who plays his twin. Sam Alexander and Eliot Giuralarocca play for maximum laughs as the Dromios. Sarah Woodward gives a strong performance as Adriana, but the usually energetic Laura Rees seems rather lacklustre as Luciana.

Although the performance is of the high standard one would expect from the Globe, it somehow seems to lack depth. The comedy is played up to such an extent that there is no room left to explore the underlying feelings of the characters. The point at which the Antipholi and Dromios discover each other is something of an anticlimax, and lacking in the ‘Ahhh!’ factor that one would usually expect at the resolution of a Shakespearean comedy. Likewise, the reuniting of Egeon and Aemilia is over far too quickly and without comment. The majority of the play is indeed comedy, but the brief opportunities for moments of drama are largely ignored here, in favour of further novelty.

All in all, this is a highly enjoyable and well-realised production, but nonetheless, one that is less than sustaining for those already familiar with the play.

This review was originally published on The Shakespeare Revue.

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