by William Shakespeare.

Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 8 May 2010.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed .30pm Sat 4pm.
Audio-described 8 May 4pm.
BSL Signed 7 May.
Post-show Discussion 6 May.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.

TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 April.

Quick-moving early Shakespeare.
Light, slight Shakespeare that slips down a treat; that’s his early Comedy of Errors. The verse behaves well, settled into single-line units, often rhyming with obedient predictability. The plot’s equally well-mannered in its unlikely double-twin story – the major joke is a visitor to Ephesus and his servant being mistaken for their long-lost master and servant twins who are well-known residents there.

But lying in wait are elements that would bloom in later plays. Twins, of course, wives and husbands, masters and servants, – all viewed in more complex shapes later, as if for now the plotting was enough.

Yet Shakespeare keeps the laughs waiting through a long prologue that raises the human stakes, setting-up a potentially sombre outcome. Its storm-clouds finally return, to be whisked away as condemned Egeon chances to meet his long-lost family outside an abbey. Two worlds, two levels of trouble exist side-by-side and the comic spirit brings them out right.

Roxana Silbert’s production focuses on this in the last scene, when a circular stage revolves, putting the rediscovered relatives on a separate plain from the local characters who had impinged on their happiness, from Duke Solinus with the threat of execution to a jeweller threatening imprisonment for an unpaid bill.

And a sharp exchange of glances between the women involved points-up that, amid the happy reconciliation a wife discovers her husband buying an expensive present for the local whore, while the Abbess’s glittering descent to the stage rather obviously stresses the unlikelihood of it all.

There’s a keen attempt to give reality to the story-so-far opening speeches, though these days that’s near impossible without some sort of visualisation. Adriana’s wifely frustration isn’t emphasised, though there’s an element of girlish inexperience in the confident pieties of Luciana, the sister with an idealised view of marriage, who is, naturally, unmarried.

In a production where actors are encouraged to use their home accents – there’s an Irish wife and a Welsh Dromio that, realistically, would have the alternate master at once suspicious – all is spick-and-span on Anthony McIlwhaine’s clear set. This is a Comedy that makes very few errors.

Solinus/Balthazar: Munir Khairdin.
Egeon/Officer: Fred Ridgeway.
Gaoler/Angelo: Youssef Kerkour.
Antipholus of Syracuse: Sam Collings.
Dromio of Syracuse: Michael Jibson.
Merchant: Huss Garbiya.
Dromio of Ephesus: Owain Arthur.
Adriana: Orla Fitzgerald.
Luciana: Sarah Ovens.
Antipholus of Ephesus: Jack Farthing.
Luce/Courtesan: Eleanor Fanyinka.
Doctor Pinch/Abbess: Jan Chappell.

Director: Roxana Silbert.
Designer: Anthony McIlwaine.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound: Steve Brown.
Chorographer: Anna Morrissey.
Verse consultant: Giles Taylor.
Assistant director: Sam Pritchard.
Associate costume: Sydney Florence.

2010-04-13 10:44:50

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