THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
by William Shakespeare.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Inner Circle Regent’s Park NW1 4NR To 31 July 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Thu Sat 2.30pm.
Captioned 12 July.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 826 4242.
Review: Carole Woddis 29 June.
Errors in the comedy of this new production.
Philip Franks’ prevailing idea in his new production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors seems to be as a cross between a 1930s French boulevard comedy and the Keystone Cops. Then again, there’s also a touch of Jacques Tati and Marx Brothers about it.
Quite why Franks decided to set this early (1592-4) play, potentially one of the Bard’s funniest, in a French colonial seaside resort is not clear. Not that you’d expect realism from a comedy that dwells so heavily on slapstick and mistaken identities and that took its original inspiration from two classical Roman comedies by Plautus. A director is entitled to take whatever license they may.
Clifford Williams’ famed 1964 RSC production stole cheekily from commedia dell ‘arte. Tim Supple’s later RSC-Young Vic version did actually take the situation of lost brother/sons, experiences in foreign lands and family reunion seriously. Nancy Meckler’s 2005 RSC version played it as a dream. One thing you hope for is dexterity with the text which luxuriates in wordplay and puns.
Franks’ crew take a while to find their feet against Gideon Davey’s vast seaside banner poster declaring `Welcome to Ephesus’ with a smaller line exempting Syracusans – a design making a topical point in the week when the UK tightened its grip on future immigrants.
It’s only when the Antipholus brothers and their servants, mistaken for each other and caught between a suspicious wife, pressing debtors and the strangeness of a new town, that physical comedy takes hold and things hot up.
Anna-Jane Casey produces a slinky turn as a Café de Paris-type singer and later turns up in a fetching Gorilla outfit whilst the two sophisticated Antipholi in white dinner jackets, and the two put-upon servants, the Dromois, convey necessary surprise and exasperation. Jo Herbert is an imposing Adriana, Sophie Roberts her rather dippy, slightly inebriated sister, Luciana. But only Veronica Roberts’ splendidly pompous Abbess finds the right tone of outraged absurdity.
On a delicious summer evening, what should have been glorious fun ends up a bit of a damp squib. Needless to say, most of the audience loved it.
Solinus: Alister Cameron.
Egeon: Christopher Ravenscroft.
An Officer: Christopher Logan.
1st Merchant: Tom Silburn.
Antipholus of Syracuse: Daniel Weyman.
Dromio of Syracuse: Joseph Kloska.
Dromio of Ephesus: Josh Cohen.
Adriana: Jo Herbert.
Luciana: Sophie Roberts.
Antipholus of Ephesus: Daniel Llewelyn-Williams.
Balthasar: David Shaw-Parker.
Luce: Faye Winter.
Angelo: Richard Warrick.
2nd merchant: Tim Freeman.
Courtesan: Anna-Jane Casey.
Emilia: Veronica Roberts.
A soldier: Richie Hart.
The Porpentine Band: Paul Frankish, Alan Brown, Richie Hart, Tom Silburn.
Director: Philip Franks.
Designer: Gideon Davey.
Lighting: Zerlina Hughes.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Musical Director: Paul Frankish.
Music: Matthew Scott.
Movement: Quinny Sacks.
Voice coach: Barbara Houseman
Fight director: Paul Benzing.