THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
by William Shakespeare.
Theatre By The Lake Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 8 November 2014.
8pm 14, 15, 20, 25, 30 Oct, 3, 7, 8 Nov.
2pm 15, 25, 30 Oct 8 Nov.
Audio-described 24 Sept 2pm.
Post-show Discussion 29 Aug.
Under 26s £5 29 Aug, 19 Aug, 10, 31 Oct.
Captioned 15 Oct 2pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 744411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 August.
Thankfully, more comedy than errors in Keswick’s production.
This early Shakespeare play looks deceptively simple at a distance. Quite short and with a title offering pure humour, it starts with a long speech – and switching-off concentration means missing the plot’s essential set-up – by a man under a death-sentence.
Audiences today tending not to listen to long speeches, directors can add illustrative action, or encourage the speaker, Ephesian governor Solinus, to illustrate the speech through its delivery. Ian Forrest resists the temptation, and the opening, if demanding, has a Shakespearean richness, cruelty mixed with humanity.
The greater danger’s yet to come. Once the scene is set, early morning’s uncertain light brightens as the Ephesian emporia, amidst domestic homes and inns, come to life.
This is where the comedy, and errors, begin, the latter based on local family man Antipholus and his servant Dromio having long-lost twin brothers, identical in names as well as looks. They are new-landed from Syracuse, the place all good Ephesians hate.
The trouble is, Shakespeare’s strength doesn’t lie in comic writing, something different from wit and comic plot. Likewise, some skilled Shakespearean directors, even at Stratford-upon-Avon, fall flat when they start devising clumsy comic business to expand the verbal jokes.
Elizabethans loved puns, many of them now lost in language’s shifting sands. Dromio’s description of an outsize servant-woman in terms of a map can still amuse but many puns seem laboured or forced.
There’s temptation for a director or actor to over-elaborate expression in recompense; the result only emphasises the forced labouring of the script. But Forrest’s ensemble avoid the trap, giving each character an individuality, keeping clear who’s who and how the characters become confused.
They avoid, too, letting the verse’s rhythm – still based on a regular rhythm and thoughts contained within a single line, linked often to a rhyming neighbour – over-ride meaning.
If this sounds negative, it allows fun along the way, before making the most of what surely involved Shakespeare as artist rather than technical playmaker – the final recognitions and family reunions. Forrest makes moving what can seem risible coincidence and highlights the final human touch, given to the twin servants.
Adriana: Cate Cammack.
Abbess/Merchant: Laura Cox.
Antipholus of Ephesus: Henry Devas.
Dromio of Suracuse: James Duke.
Luciana: Jennifer English.
Dromio of Ephesus: Chris Hannon.
Antipholus of Syracuse: Bryn Holding.
Luce/Courtesan: Katie Norris.
Egeon: Peter Rylands.
Solinus/Balthasar/Officer: Alan Suri.
Angelo/Dr Pinch/Officer: Matthew Vaughan.
Director: Ian Forrest.
Designer/Costume: Martin Johns.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Maura Guthrie.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Peter Macqueen.