Hamilton Gardens, Camellia Lawn, Gate 2, Hamilton

17/02/2014 - 23/02/2014

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2014

Production Details

Our Iconic Summer Shakespeare 

When the merchant Antipholus comes searching for his long lost twin brother (also called Antipholus) things soon tangle in a web of mistaken identities and misassumptions. Before long the chaos has sucked in cynical servants, jealous wives, anxious merchants and pedantic police officers.

Fast-paced Shakespearean farce from the team that brought you 2012’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2014

Monday, 17 February – Thursday, 20 February 2014 @ 7:00pm
Sunday, 23 February 2014 @ 4:00am
Where:  Camellia Garden 
Wet Venue:  Cancelled
Tickets:  FREE – but any and all donations gratefully accepted 
Genre:  Theatre – BYO Seating 
Duration:  120 minutes

Theatre , Outdoor ,


Timeless laughs

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 18th Feb 2014

A regular feature of The Hamilton Gardens’ Arts Festival, the Summer Shakespeare is well attended on its opening night here in the lush green surrounds of the Camellia Garden. I love this kind of atmosphere: people unpacking picnics and pouring glasses of wine to the serenade of cicadas, settling in for open air theatre, and the summer we are having means it is again a balmy night out. 

Director Ross McLeod hands out programmes and opens the play with a note regarding intermission and the location of the facilities. It may have been handy for him to also point out that phones should be turned to silent or off, although the dinging of message alerts was nothing on the hot contest of noise from elsewhere that dogs the show throughout its duration. 

The Comedy of Errors is the shortest of William Shakespeare’s plays, and it is indeed a great premise for laughs. I have been a fan of the story since I was teenaged, when I watched spellbound as a young Karl Urban played Antipholus of Syracuse. If you do not know the story, it is simple: two sets of twin boys, separated by misfortune, who know nothing of each other, are – in their adult master / servant combinations – brought together again by fate. The ensuing foibles of mistaken identity generate the biggest laughs and the ending is happy. Cheesy maybe, but it gets me every time.

In this jaded age of remakes it is increasingly difficult to put a new spin on old ideas, so tonight I am looking for quirk and skill. By and large I get it. 

Our heroes; Antipholus of Ephesus (Benny Marama) and Antipholus of Syracuse (Antony Aiono), clad in brightly coloured island-style shirts and straw cowboy hats, are played superbly. Both inhabit just enough of a difference in delivery and approach for the comedy to really work. At no stage does their performance become contrived.

The same can be said for Dromio of Ephesus (Josh Drummond) and Dromio of Syracuse (Dave Taylor) who are adorably daft. A good example of great casting, I commend both the man servants on their ability to riff seamlessly with their masters; lending an authentic feeling of the servant / master relationship.

Aiono truly shines, especially during his monologues. His sense of comic timing is sharp and his command of Shakespearian language impressive. Of all the players, I get the best sense of the script from him. 

My quirk box is ticked several times: when the house girl, Luce (spelt Luse in the programme; played by Iris Riddel), empties a plastic jug of water over the gate; the use of cheese slices as swords; the waitress (played by Jennifer Lawrence lookalike Clare McDonald) on her cellphone, whingeing about the madness of Antipholus of Ephesus; Dr Pinch (Riddel again) with her bag of whacky instruments. Delightful!

In my opinion, for any Shakespeare to be successful it has to be audible. By and large this is, but the gaps in dialogue prove the major, if solitary detractor. Bearing in mind our players are not wearing microphones, and are playing in a less-than acoustically supportive environment, it does prove a struggle for the audience to hear. This is especially noticeable during many of the scenes involving Adriana (Jackie Dawson) and her sister Luciana (impressively played by Emma Koretz).

I find myself wishing the cicadas would be silent, then half an hour into the play another show starts and the sound spilling up into this garden is not only loud but at times infuriating. I congratulate the cast for staying as focussed as possible; I only note a couple of flubbed lines which I hope I am right to put down to opening night nerves rather than the noisy distractions.

An all-round solid presentation of an old classic, and given that entry is free (though the cast does come about the audience with their hats for offerings at the end of the show) I can see no good reason why every Hamiltonian with a ‘thing’ for (or indeed an interest in) Shakespeare shouldn’t pack a picnic (or pick up a bucket of KFC) and pile down to the Camellia Garden for a night of timeless laughs.


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