The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. The Barbican Theatre, London. 4****. William Russell

Maybe the pudding has been a bit over egged, but choosing this production, one which delighted audiences when it was originally performed in a specially built theatre on the banks of the Avon at Stratford in, was a good choice. It has been on tour since then and now rolls into town all cylinders firing.
Shakespeare’s earliest use of the shipwrecked twins plot leading to multiple confusions – director Philip Breen has read quite a lot into the fact that everyone in it is mad for one reason or another, and it is all there if you want to look for it -s a splendid tale of mistaken identities. On a superficial level it is just very funny and one can leave it at that much as Rogers and Hart do with The Boys from Syracuse, but also there are things going on beneath the surface about relationships and loss and coming to terms with life changes one has not expected.
Perhaps one reason for it taking a little while to get going was the set, the theatre created for Stratford. It looked uncomfortable on the Barbican stage, too large, too reminiscent of a 1930s picture house foyer, and not really suited for the exit one set of twins, enter the second confusions created for the wives, girlfriends, debtors and law enforcement characters involved. But there is no faulting the skill of the actors playing the brothers Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse and Ephesus respectively on which the comedy depends and one has to admire the energy and zest of the entire cast. Maybe one got the feeling everyone on stage was having too much of a good time, certainly if one looks at the darker side to the comedy, which the director most certainly does want to happen, and the chorus of singers, tuneful though they were, who kept interrupting the action, proved a bit of a distraction. However as a seasonal night out it should do very nicely indeed and one can dismiss the doubts, the gloriously preposterous denouement – the set really does not allow for an abbess to emerge from her convent to settle things – and sit back and laugh.

Egeon: Antony Bunsee.
Antipholus of Syracuse: Guy Lewis.
Dromio of Syracuse: Jonathan Broadbent.
Antophulus of Ephesus: Rowan Polonski.
Dromio of Ephesus: Greg Haiste.
Adrianna: Naomi Sheldon.
Luciana: Avita Jay.
Luce: Sarah Segari.
Aemilia: Zoe Lambert.
Solinus: Nicholas Prasad.
First Merchant: Riad Richie.
Second Merchant: William Grint.
Bodyguard: Dyfrig Morris.
Angel: Baker Musaka.
Balthasar: Patrick Osborne.
Courtesam: Toyin Ayedun-Alase.
Doctor Pinch: Alfred Ckay.
Officer: Riad Richie.
Singers: Helena Raeburn, Alex Saunders, Dunja Botic, Dale Harris, Robert Jenkins,David Jones.

Director: Philip Breen.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting Designer: Tina MacHugh.
Sound Designer: Dyfan Jones.
Movement Direction: Charlotte Broom.
Music Director: Jack Hopkins.
Production Photographs: Pete le May.

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