THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
14/04/2016 - 23/04/2016
The Globe, Dunedin, is delighted to mark this special year, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, with its first ever production of one of his earliest plays, a comedy of very many errors. The play is quite short, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play.
Twins separated at birth, long-lost parents, a shipwreck that throws them all together although it takes time and many, often fierce, misunderstandings for them all to realise this. As a condemned man awaits his fate, a series of farcical, apparently random happenings overlap until all becomes clear at the hour set for his execution.
“In Ancient Ephesus, it takes a full day for anyone to put two and two together…”
THE GLOBE THEATRE, 104 London St, Dunedin
Thursday 14 April to Saturday 23 April 2016
Globe members $15
General $25; Concession $20
Groups of 5 or more $20
School students (with ID) $10
Opening Night Special $15 everyone
Solinus, Duke of Ephesus: Andrew Wicken
Egeon, Merchant of Syracuse: Adam Cadogen
Aemilia, Abbess at Ephesus: Toni White
Antipholus of Ephesus: Jeremy Aldworth
Antipholus of Syracuse: Andrew Brinsley-Pirie
Dromio of Ephesus: John Rowe
Dromio of Syracuse: Cain Sleep
Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus: Anisha Hensley-Wilson
Luciana, Adriana’s sister: Emer Lyons
Balthazar, a merchant, Dr Pinch, a schoolmaster, & 2nd Merchant, & Jailer: Steffan Cadogen
Angelo, a goldsmith: Jubin Gautam
1st Merchant & Officer & Messenger: Joseph Law
Courtesan: Niamh Conlon
Director: Ellie Swann
Stage Manager: Laniet Swann
Technician: Martin Swann
Production Assistant: Georgia Wallace
Fast-paced comedy also has a more sombre side
Review by Barbara Frame 19th Apr 2016
The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays, and the Globe’s energetic, fast-moving production, directed by Ellie Swann, exploits its potential for hilarity.
Where there are two pairs of twins, each set with identical names, but the presence of either half unsuspected by the other, there’s bound to be trouble. Confusions and misunderstandings pile up and multiply in a way that’s perfectly comprehensible to the audience, but not to the characters, almost all of whom eventually become certain that almost all of the other people on the stage are completely mad.
The moment when the tension is defused is well handled, and this relaxation instantly settles on the audience too.
Although the fast pace occasionally produces indistinct dialogue, performances are generally of a good standard. Especially watchable are Globe regulars Andrew Brinsley-Pirie as Antipholus of Syracuse, and Anisha Hensley-Wilson as Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus. The antics of Cain Sleep and John Rowe, as the agile twin servants both named Dromio, constantly threaten to steal the show.
Colourful costumes made by Rachael McCann, Ellie Swann and Sandy Wicken, a versatile, classical-looking set constructed by Ray Fleury and sound and lighting by Martin Swann complement the production’s bright mood.
Although the play’s farcical aspects dominate, its sombre side is also present. Few thoughtful audience members can have overlooked the contemporary relevance of the Mediterranean location, the helplessness of migrants confronted by baffling and draconian laws, the anguish of separated families and, at the very end, joyful reunions as ignorance and rigidity give way to generosity and reconciliation.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Exciting and humorous action made memorable
Review by Terry MacTavish 19th Apr 2016
I thought I was all Shakespeared-out after three days of witnessing some 30 madly exuberant and innovative Shakespearean scenes by high school students for the regional SGCNZUO Sheilah Winn Festival, but as it transpires my appetite has merely been whetted. It is actually very satisfying to see one play in its entirety at the beautifully repaired Globe, that play being the seldom seen The Comedy of Errors.
This is one of Shakespeare’s early works and though the Guardian described it as “one of the most beautifully crafted farces ever written” when it was produced in 2014, it does not bear comparison with Twelfth Night or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But even Shakespeare’s juvenilia puts other writers to shame. This lively, bubbling nonsense, which requires extraordinary suspension of disbelief, is packed with delicious language and ridiculous situations stolen from commedia; the plot itself being based on a play by the Roman Plautus.
We must accept that two pairs of identical twins with the same outfits and the same names, Antipholus for the master and Dromio for his comic sidekick servant, have been separated at birth by a favourite device, the shipwreck, to fetch up in the same place years later, causing predictable mayhem. The mistaken identities – another stock convention of farce – lead to a series of ludicrous situations, particularly as one brother is recently married while the other immediately fancies the girl who believes herself to be his sister-in-law.
Director Ellie Swann has worked wonders with a relatively inexperienced cast, which throws itself into the play’s absurdities with determination and a charming energy that engages the audience. The set is classically simple, the costumes colourful and pretty, and the vigorous horseplay slickly choreographed. The actors, especially the more experienced Andrew Brindsley-Pirie, are secure in their roles, and Swann has maintained a brisk pace, which is a fine thing, ensuring the play is a right romp. The audience laughs happily from the moment the confusion begins.
It does take training to handle Shakespearean verse, achieving absolute clarity of articulation allied with what we used to call intercostal-diaphragmatic breath control. Here the rapid pace leads to some gabbling of the lines and a tendency for a climax to peak too soon, leaving the actor with nowhere to go. But the play is carried by the wildly energetic physical comedy and literally knockabout humour, relished by the little boy seated behind me. The twin servants named Dromio – Cain Sleep and John Rowe – are especially intrepid. Decidedly unalike, though. Perhaps an identical silly hat would help?!
There is a darker aspect to the play that Swann has emphasised in the opening scene, a tricky one to produce as it is mostly somewhat tedious exposition. For reasons of political censorship it was safer for Shakespeare to set his plays outside of England, so one set of brothers is brought up in Syracuse, Sicily, the other in Ephesus, Turkey. These two cities are at odds, and when the Antipholus twins’ father Egeon (a bearded and suitably sorrowful Adam Cadogan) arrives in Ephesus to seek his son, he is arrested as an alien and imprisoned to await execution. Aided by Martin Swann’s effective sound and lighting, director Swann places the woeful Egeus in a drearily lit, dripping dungeon, while the arguments about illegal immigrants boom about his bowed and silent head. Tragically the plight of refugees seems to be ever topical.
There are stirrings of an early feminism too, as the spirited sisters discuss marriage. When Luciana (Emer Lyons) tells Adriana (Anisha Hensley-Wilson) that man is master of his liberty and, indeed, “masters to their females,” she replies indignantly, “Why should their liberty than ours be more?” Shades of The Taming of the Shrew…
The servants also have their brief rebellion, understandable when one master asserts that his servant’s moods as well as actions are his to command, but their grumblings are merely habitual, and the status quo is soon restored. The brother serfs end up at least satisfied with the equality of their own relationship: “Lets go hand in hand, not one before another.”
And as we expect of Shakespeare, A Comedy of Errors offers some insights into the human condition, this one bringing those poor refugees to mind:
A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry:
But were we burden’d with like weight of pain,
As much or more we should ourselves complain.
But it is the exciting and humorous action we will remember. The little boy behind me leaves chuckling over the ridiculous fooling and knockabout slapstick fun shared so enthusiastically by Swann’s young troupe, who have been given this great opportunity to explore a little-known but entertaining classic.
And I am left with the memory of words that still seem new-minted* by a genius who has just discovered language and simply must share every adjective that springs to his fertile mind. In a scene instantly recognisable today, before concluding glumly, “My heart prays for him, though my tongue do curse”, Adriana reviles the husband she thinks has cheated on her in a glorious fusillade:
He is deformed, crooked, old and sere,
Ill-faced, worse-bodied, shapeless everywhere:
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
Thanks, Globe, for giving Dunedin this treat, a chance to see why Shakespeare is still the Master, 400 years after his death.
*(We still haven’t caught up with Will: my spellcheck has just pompously rejected stigmatical!)
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer