Sunday, 12 September 2010

Review: The Comedy of Errors

Double trouble at the Globe


Having chosen to do the Shakespeare module at university rather than opt for what others saw as more exciting choices, i.e contemporary Literature, I can conclude that unlike some of my friends, years of being smothered by Shakespeare at school and university have still left me with love for the Bard. However, I had only seen Shakespeare theatre productions after studying them scrupulously at school or university, analysing certain words, plucking out underlying themes and commenting on rhyme schemes. The Comedy of Errors at the Globe Theatre was the first production I saw where I had no prior knowledge of its plot. And this scared me.

I feared I wouldn’t understand the language and then I would lose track of the plot, proving that I was too stupid for Shakespeare. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. Not knowing the plot meant I was genuinely intrigued about how the comic tangles would be resolved.

}The strength of this production lies in its magnification of the confusion found in the play~

It’s a complicated yet comic play, with mistaken identity, slapstick chaos and confusion driving the plot. In a nutshell, there are two sets of twins, Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse (Shakespeare really does not make it easy for the audience) along with their slaves, Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse. Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus get separated from their twins at birth. Years later, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracus go to Ephesus in search of their brothers. With the two sets of twins now both in the same town, a series of mistaken identity episodes ensue with both Antipholus’ getting confused with their slaves and mistresses getting raunchy with the wrong lovers. To make things even more complicated, this production uses one actor to play each set of twins, with both Antipholus’ played by Tom Mothersdale and both Dromios played by Fergal McElherron.

Despite the propensity for the audience to be completely baffled by the constant cases of mistaken identity on stage, it doesn’t matter. The strength of this production lies in its magnification of the confusion found in the play. At one point, it becomes metatheatrical, with the actor playing Antipholus of Syracuse, Tom Mothersdale, seeming to forget to don his Antipholus of Ephesus prop when changing roles, much to the audience’s amusement.

Although the production concentrates more on the slapstick comedy elements than Shakespeare’s witty wordplay, this doesn’t diminish its comic effect on a modern day audience, producing rapturous roars of laughter, from the young and old. For me, The Comedy of Errors was a reminder that although we have been programmed to associate Shakespeare with English exams and coursework, he wrote his plays primarily to entertain.

* The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play and it is one of his earlier works

* It is set in Ephesus, present-day Turkey, which was a leading trade centre in ancient times

* Shakespeare drew on a mixture of sources for The Comedy of Errors- Plautus, Menaechmi and Apollonius of Tyre

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