New Alexandra Theatre
The Ambassador Theatre Group and Propeller in association with The Touring Partnership present:
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Runs: 2h, 15m: one interval: till 7th June 2014
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Runs: 2h 30m
Start: evenings: 7.30 pm
Tkts: 0844 871 3011 (bkg fee): www.atgtickets.com/birmingham
Review: Jan Pick
3rd and 4th June 2014
An OK Comedy and a beautiful Dream – two reviews from Jan Pick
Comedy of Errors. Shakespeare on a roll!
Propeller are touring their versions of Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy of Errors’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and have arrived for a short stay at the Alex in Birmingham. Both plays take place over a few hours of one day or night and both have much darker elements underlying and shadowing the comedy.
Of the two, ‘Comedy of Errors’ appears the lighter, being farcical in its action and based on the comedies of Plautus. However, Shakespeare always layers his plays with potential meanings and possibilities and it is these that Propeller seems to have jettisoned in this production. There is no sense of urgency, or threat of time running out and that a man’s life depends on the resolution of the events of the afternoon.
Oh, it is a good romp, lively and well received by the audience and I cannot fault the delivery or comic timing of the cast. Matthew McPherson, Joseph Chance, Dan Wheeler and Will Featherstone make an excellent quartet of twins and David Acton as Aegeon, father of the Antipholus boys, is dignified, sympathetic and suitably wretched – although his big scene at the start of the play was seriously undercut by some comic stage business thought necessary by the director but not by Shakespeare!
Of the women, Arthur Wilson as Luciana came out as the best. The rest would not be out of place in a pantomime. James Tucker makes something of the role of Adriana, but compared with the wonder and skill of the Japanese onnagata actors, whose ‘women’ are beautifully represented, which is presumably the way Shakespeare’s boy actors were trained to act, Propeller is left at the starting post in this production.
The play is funny without the accretions of layers of silly ‘business’, funny noises, heavy underlining of jokes, weird accents and ostentatious nudges and winks, Shakespeare has enough coarse humour to please the crowds without these unnecessary additions. Cuts were made in a very short play for interpolations of extra ‘stuff’ by the cast, which while funny enough did nothing to add to the humour – in fact in parts the play dragged and there is a lot of tediously bad jokes about sleazy cheap Spain in the ‘allo allo’ style!
On the positive side, the music as usual is excellent and the set and lighting worked well. Overall Shakespeare’s true play managed to shine out from under this blanket of silliness and there are laughs enough for the audience.
The Duke: Dominic Gerrard
Dromio of Syracuse: Will Featherstone
Angelo: David Acton
Dromio of Ephesus: Matthew McPherson
Luciana: Arthur Wilson
Officer: Richard Pepper
Antipholus of Syracuse: Dan Wheeler
Aegeon: Chris Myles
Aemilia: Alasdair Craig
Antipholus of Ephesus: Joseph Chance
Balthazar: Lewis Hart
Pinch: Darrell Brockis
Adriana: James Tucker
Courtesan: Matthew Pearson
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Midsummer Night’s Dream. Simply Magic!
In contrast, what a brilliant production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ this is! From the start the set, loosely woven rope netting – a bit like chain mail, a collapsible box in the centre under a miniature marquee, and gauzes, begins to create a strange world of its own, and when Puck’s twinkly red shoes on the end of red and white striped stockings appear out of the box and waggle suggestively at us, the magic truly begins. The surreal world of faerie has no problem in presenting an androgynous, slightly punk Titania – James Tucker – and a set of male fairies, in glorious white combinations, which create magic through their excellent movement and voice work. Darrell Brockis, magnificently cloaked, is an imposing and suitably scary Oberon in his dangerous petulance over Titania’s denial of his wish for the little Indian boy, and Tucker makes something wondrous of Titania’s lament at the results of their quarrel on the world of nature.
The four lovers make the most of every moment on stage, with Matthew McPherson seamlessly transforming from Hermia to Snug the Joiner! Dan Wheeler captivates as Helena and engages the audience simply by glance and a raised eyebrow, and Arthur Wilson and Richard Pepper as Demetrius and Lysander enjoy some lovely comic moments.
No Dream would be complete without its’ Mechanicals, and again the performances were excellent, nicely differentiated with Chris Myles particularly good as Bottom, but actually – and rarely – outclassed in the chaotic mayhem of the performance of Pyramus before the Court, by his Thisbe, Alasdair Craig, who reduced much of the audience to tears of laughter.
Throughout the evening the outstanding performance is that of Joseph Chance as Puck. As he romps around the stage, thoroughly enjoying himself, meddling and mistaking, he not only charms his victims but his audience as well.
With lashings of fairy glitter, haunting music and sounds, this is a manic, magical, merry evening and absolutely unmissable.
Theseus / Fairy: Dominic Gerrard
Hippolyta /Fairy: Will Featherstone
Egeus / Quince / Fairy: David Acton
Hermia / Snug /Fairy: Matthew McPherson
Demetrius / Fairy: Arthur Wilson
Lysander / Fairy: Richard Pepper
Helena / Fairy: Dan Wheeler
Bottom: Chris Myles
Flute / Fairy: Alasdair Craig
Puck: Joseph Chance
Snout / Fairy: Lewis Hart
Oberon: Darrell Brockis
Titania: James Tucker
Fairy / Starveling: Matthew Pearson
Director: Edward Hall
Designer: Michael Pavelka
Lighting Designer: Ben Ormerod
Sound: David Gregory
Text adapted by: Edward Hall & Roger Warren
Associate Director: Dugald Bruce-Lockhart
Costume Supervisor: Laura Rushton
Production Manager: Nick Ferguson
Company Manager: Helen Drew
Stage Manager: Nick Hill
Deputy Stage Manager: Eleanor Randall
Assistant Stage Manager: Janine Bardsley
Production Electrician: Thomas White
Wardrobe Mistress: Bridget Fell
Assistant to the Editors: Angie Kendall
Education Consultant: Will Wollen
General Manager: Nick Chesterfield
Development Manager: Cathy Baker
Executive Producer: Caro MacKay
Marketing & Publicity: The Corner Shop PR
Company Accountants: John Curtis Accountancy
Travel: Specialised Travel Ltd
Trucking: Paul Mathew Transport
Set built by: RK Resources Ltd