Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Theatre review: The Comedy of Errors (RSC / RST & Roundhouse)
The production itself is one of the funniest I've seen, perhaps even eclipsing last year's Propeller offering since this once comes to life pretty early on. Director Amir Nazir Zuabi has found and exploited every opportunity for physical comedy that the play offers, and everyone throws themselves into it. Zuabi would seem to be as unimpressed by Egeon's interminable exposition speech at the start as I am, since he has Nicholas Day's Egeon have his head dunked into a fish tank at various points during it. Because this is a particularly dangerous Ephesus, ruled by Sandy Grierson's gangster Solinus and filled with shady characters. There's a theme of illegal immigrants throughout, the Syracusians arriving hidden in a packing crate along with many others - in fact this attempt at a darker side is the only false move in the production, hard to reconcile with the madness everywhere else.
Kirsty Bushell and Felix Hayes have proved themselves the comic stars of the trilogy in many ways, the former playing a pretty deranged, disheveled Adriana. Meanwhile Hayes, well-matched physically with Mackinnon as his twin, continues to be a scene-stealer with the tiniest gesture, while in this his Dromio also gets a memorable running musical gag that gets a lot of laughs. In fact this production does a particularly good job of showing how different the two master-servant relationships are, which clarifies how a lot of the confusion comes about.
There's nice moments from Cecilia Noble as a bolshy Mother Superior, and Amie Burns Walker's Courtesan flinging her "chicken fillet" fake breasts across the stage in anger; and Jan Knightley's character appearing dressed identically in all three plays, suggesting this seaman in a high-vis jacket might have been on the scene of all three shipwrecks (in which case he might want to look for a new job, he's clearly a jinx.) This is an almost perfectly-executed Comedy of Errors. The trilogy's nearly ended its London run but if you're planning on seeing one when they return to Stratford-upon-Avon, this would be my pick of the three.
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare is booking in repertory until the 4th of July at the Roundhouse; then returning to the repertory until the 6th of October at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including interval