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ZEAL PUSHES COMEDY TOWARDS FARCE

Print Version

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Richard Finn
Presented by Whitireia New Zealand's Stage and Screen Arts Programme

at Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington
From 24 Jun 2014 to 28 Jun 2014
[1hr 30mins, incl. interval]

Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson, 26 Jun 2014
originally published in The Dominion Post

On entering the foyer of the Whitireia Performance Centre you are confronted with a number of actors and audience dancing to music played and sung by the excellent Sunny Daze and The Sunbeams (a spot-on name for a 1950s band).

In the theatre the play begins with the citizens of Ephesus dancing a dance that is somewhere between jitterbug and rock'n'roll. It is a bustling city where, as the programme states, “the younger generation were finding their voice.”

However, in the bustle of Shakespeare's Ephesus there is a harsh government as well as mountebanks and thieves. Into this dangerous city come Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio who immediately get confused with their identical twins, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, also called Dromio; all separated at birth.

A farcical plot if ever there was one which Shakespeare embellished from a work by the Roman playwright Plautus. But Shakespeare is never that simple. First, it is called a comedy not a farce and underlying all the mistaken identities and confusions there are real emotional depths concerning families, loss, madness, marriage, and reunion.

In the programme Richard Finn quotes the play's touching final couplet: “We came into the world like brother and brother/And now let's go hand in hand, not one before the other.”

The Whitireia second-year students of Stage and Screen Arts tackle the play performing with a mixture of farce and comedy, with farce coming out ahead.

There's a harum-scarum chase, a trio of a tango, a portable front door, lots of rushing about, and only clothing, and painted moustaches for the Dromios, to make the two sets of twins identical.

The striking appearance of the mountebank Dr Pinch as a witch-doctor bears out superbly Antipholus of Ephesus's description of him as “A needy, hollow-eyed, sharp looking wretch, ” as does the rotundity of the kitchen maid, Luce, who “If she lives to doomsday, she'll burn a week longer than the whole world.”

In short, the production and the performances are a bit too eager to keep things moving at the expense of the play's themes but it is nonetheless an enjoyable evening.
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