Review by Andrew Collins
“How many fond fools serve such mad jealousy?”
Propeller Theatre Company bring a dynamic, frenetic, and remarkably avant-garde production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors to the Theatre Royal. Propeller are an all male touring theatre group led by director Edward Hall. They are modernistic, highly inventive and have toured their versions of classic Shakespeare plays to over 22 countries.
Comedy of Errors, one of Shakespeare’s early plays, is based on a comic farce written by the noted Roman playwright Plautus. It’s main contrivance concerns twins being separated at birth by a cruel quirk of fate. 25 years later, the estranged brothers somehow find themselves in the same city, and ensuing mistaken identity mishaps lead to a most complicated farce.
Shakespeare upped the ante of the source material by adding in two identical servants for the brothers, both called Dromio. The play is set in the ancient, bewitched town of Ephesus where one of the brothers now lives. Here, their Syracusean merchant father who searches for his lost sons, opens the play in captivity. He explains to the Duke of Ephesus, his captor, the reason for his sad predicament, and the plot unfolds.
Propeller have taken the bold decision of setting the play in the 80s, hence we are visually assaulted with outrageous costumes and treated to several clever 80s references.
The play has a relatively young cast and ensemble which brings a fresh feel to the production. Music features heavily in the show, from kazoo, flute, bongos and guitar to the – I’m loathe to use this word, but it’s most apt – zany device of the ensemble being a Mariachi band dressed in football shirts. The band entertains with busking before hand and in the interval. It takes some getting used to, but certainly becomes great fun once you do.
Both the passions and reactions of the cast are noticeably violent – poor Dromio – as the scenes switch at a breakneck pace between the mixed up characters. The female characters are fearsomely portrayed – but never too camp – and provide arguably the best moments of the show. Astute choreography adds another comic dimension to the flamboyant capers on stage.
“Blissfully entertaining” crows the Guardian, and I have to agree – it’s deviously hilarious and highly disciplined (despite all the chaos). Neat scaffold set design by Michael Pavelka with draped fairy lighting proves the perfect backdrop for Shakespeare’s typically inventive and relentlessly invective dialogue. It’s played out with fully infectious exuberance by the mightily talented Propeller cast who never miss a beat. Quite marvellous and unforgettable.
COMEDY OF ERRORS at THEATRE ROYAL, BRIGHTON shows on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th June 2014.
Tickets and further information is available from : http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-comedy-of-errors/theatre-royal-brighton/
Midsummer’s Night Dream
The producers are showing The Comedy of Errors and Midsummer’s Night Dream on alternate days this week with both being performed on Saturday in a grand finale.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
Tue 10 & Fri 13 Jun 7.45pm
Sat 14 Jun 2.30pm
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Wed 11, Thu 12 & Sat 14 Jun 7.45pm
Thu 12 Jun 2.30pm