Reading Carpark – cnr Tory and Wakefield Streets, Wellington

16/02/2018 - 03/03/2018

Production Details


Wellington Summer Shakespeare celebrates the 35th year with its first ever production of the favourite farce The Comedy of Errors. The Samuel Phillips directed show will run 16th February – 3rd March.  While some Shakespeare can drag on for hours this is the rare Shakespearean play that can be fit into one riotous 100-minute act. 

The Comedy of Errors is a fast-paced farce about two sets of long-lost identical twins who have miraculously stumbled into town on the same day. The play takes place on a single day in Ephesus, a buzzing harbour town not unlike Wellington. In sticking with the twin themes, the play will have its two lead actors switching roles each night. So, come once, come twice and see if you can tell these twins apart.

The 2018 production will take up residence in Wellington’s Reading Carpark where it will be part of the newly redesigned Tory St! This location brings Shakespeare into the heart of the CBD and the production will be the first event to take place in this pedestrian friendly space. 

The Comedy of Errors is set in Ephesus which, like Wellington, is an incredibly welcoming city; you can make a home and explore who you want to be. Our city enables you to have adventures, to be anyone, to find yourself. We invite you to join our Summer Shakespeare family for The Comedy of Errors,” said Director Samuel Phillips. 

Wellington Summer Shakespeare is a labour of love not lost by the Wellington Summer Shakespeare Trust and is made possible thanks to the support of Victoria University of Wellington – 2/3 of the cast and 1/2 of the crew are either current students or alumni. The first Summer Shakespeare was on Victoria University of Wellington’s campus and the relationship continues 35 years. 

Wellington Summer Shakespeare Trust is also grateful for the continued support of the Wellington City Council and our new hosts at Courtenay Central/Reading Car Park.

Reading Carpark – cnr Tory and Wakefield Streets
16th February – 3rd March
7.30pm Tue-Sat, 4.00pm Sun
$12 /$18

Anntipholus of Ephesus:  Michael Hockey
Antipholus of Syracuse:  James Cain
Dromio of Ephesus:  Samuel Irwin
Dromio of Syracuse:  Kasey Benge
Adriana:  Stevie Hancox-Monk
Luciana:  Pippa Drakeford
Egeon & Pinch:  Shauwn Keil
Abbess:  Tabitha Arthur
Luce & Courtesan:  Alexandra Taylor
Angela:  Gemma Revell
Balthazar:  Kevin Karn
Duchess:  Nikaiah (Kiya) Basabas
1st Merchant:  Beth Draper
Second Merchant:  Victoria Stevens
Jailor:  Kirstin Crowe
Officer:  Jane Paul

PRODUCER:  Sally Thorburn
DIRECTOR:  Samuel Phillips
STAGE MANAGER:  Hannah Lee Japes 

Theatre , Outdoor ,

Genuinely enjoyable

Review by Tim Stevenson 18th Feb 2018

The Comedy of Errors gives the viewer everything we expect from the Summer Shakespeare brand: an enthusiastic young cast, some excellent acting, an adventurous outdoors venue (in this case, the Reading cinema carpark) and a fresh reading of the text that doesn’t suffer from undue reverence for The Bard.

In case you’ve forgotten, The Comedy of Errors is the one with the two sets of twins and all the mistaken identity business. There are rich twins, both named Antipholus (Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse); each has a slave called Dromio (of Ephesus and Syracuse respectively), with the Dromios also being twins.

After various plot devices, Antipholus S and Antipholus E and the two Dromios end up roaming around Ephesus being confused for each other. All this confusion does everyone’s head in, particularly because neither twin meets up (spoiler alert: not until the very end, anyway) so that everyone can say – Hang on, but you’re! – No, you’re! – until the penny drops.

The play is famous for its verbal wit and for its situation-based comedy, much of which arises from how individual characters deal with the unnatural stress on relationships (wife/husband, owner/slave) caused by the temporary excess of twins on the streets of Ephesus.

In its quest for comic effect, the production doesn’t get hung up on period authenticity or clinging to the Sacred Text. We get snatches from contemporary pop songs, sniffing white powder instead of quaffing ale, and a loutish police officer (Jean Paul) whose free use of four letter words is, I’m absolutely certain, not canonical but goes down well with many in the audience.

This Comedy is visually busy, with lots happening on and off stage. This creates a sense of lively spectacle but may at times distract the viewer from the main action. 

On the night I see it, the cast takes a long time to warm up, although this is very possibly due to the uproar coming from a rowdy party in a nearby apartment. It is something of a relief when James Cain (Antipholus S*) and Kasey Benge (Dromio S) launch into a sustained and zany comic routine which show us that not only is the show going on, it is actually capable of being genuinely funny.

Cain and Benge show, individually and together, at least one way to win through with Shakespearean comedy. Their formula combines broad, smoothly executed physical comedy with well-paced (which usually means a lot slower than you might think), confident delivery of lines and willingness to try anything. These are two skilled, likeable and effective performances.

Samuel Irwin as a deadpan Dromio E seems a bit stiff at first but does loosen up after a while – I particularly enjoy a scene near the end where he complements his lines with a sequence of magnificently weird facial expressions.

Michael Hockey as Antipholus E is a lovely actor to watch, very limber (he’s a great dancer), with a beautiful and expressive voice. His character isn’t as sympathetic as the other Antipholus – hitting your slave doesn’t seem quite as funny these days as it perhaps did to the slave-bashing Elizabethans – but it’s a fine performance nevertheless. 

Stevie Hancox-Monk’s interpretation of the key role of Luciana emphasises the angry/indignant aspect of her character. This is another strong performance, although there are times when it could benefit from a bit more variation and colour.

Nikaiah Basabas shows confidence and authority as the Duchess, and has a beautiful singing voice as well.

Shauwn Keil pleases the crowd as the quack Pinch (Keil also plays Egeon); Pippa Drakeford-Croad is delightful as Adriana being wooed by Antipholus S; Tabitha Arthur skilfully and quickly draws and holds our attention in her brief appearance as the Abbess.

Director Samuel Phillips has brought together a complex, well-rehearsed, carefully conceived production. Not all the ideas on stage work, but we won’t mind this; Summer Shakespeare is traditionally about trying out new approaches rather than polishing the Bard’s halo. 

Overall, this cast seems to be still settling into their roles. I think I detect a tendency at moments to hope that busy action, talking loudly and smiling will win over the audience. On the other hand, there are enough passages when the actors relaxed, have fun, work together well and deliver, to make this a genuinely enjoyable production.

Big congratulations to Movement Director Leila Morad: the freestyle jig at the end is the best I’ve ever seen; well choreographed, well rehearsed, and it really looks like fun. 

*Note that James Cain and William Hockey play different Antipholuses on different nights.


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