by William Shakespeare adapted by Edward Hall and Roger Warren.

Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU In rep to 9 July 2011.
7:30pm 29June-1 July, 4, 5, 9 July.
2pm 2, 6 July.
Audio-described: July 2 (+ Touch Tour).
Captioned 5 July.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Carole Woddis 24 June.

More Errors than comedy.
Shakespeare’s early comedy of mistaken identities, The Comedy of Errors, is one of the bard’s most popular and potentially delightful plays. Ed Hall’s all-male Propeller company however shows how it can go horribly wrong – though I have to report the matinee audience whooped and hollered.

Hall’s Hamsptead season combines it with Richard III. `One comedy and one tragedy. “But which is which…?” he writes in the programme.

Roger Warren, Hall’s writing associate, makes out a plausible claim for linking them. Same period in Shakespeare’s development (early), similar language (regular blank verse) and a potentially tragic undertow with Errors’ splitting of families and twins (as in Twelfth Night) in shipwreck and the ultimate reconciliation. But little of that tragic undertow emerges in Hall’s interpretation.

All begins well. Hall’s unquestionably versatile musicians-actors saunter onto a festive, Italianate setting, strumming gently, the melancholic `Autumn Leaves’ gradually giving way to `The Girl from Ipanema’. Lovely.

Enter Richard Clothier’s benign Duke of Ephesus. Thoughtfully, he listens to Aegeon (John Dougall)’s tale of woe – familial loss and as a Syracusan straying into `enemy’ territory.

Led by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s Syracusan Antipholus (actually a nicely restrained comic performance) and his servant Dromio (Richard Frame), to say the comedy that then ensues is heavy-handed would be an understatement.

Worst sufferers are the female characters. Robert Hands’ Adriana is an unmitigated harpy, jangling bracelets and bling. Whatever lines might imply a genuine concern on `her’ part of her husband’s dalliance elsewhere disappear in caricature. Comedy has to spring out of some sense of reality. Chris Myles’ whip wielding, S&M Abbess epitomises the production’s crashing misjudgement, making nonsense of the admittedly soppy ending where family and husband and wife are all reunited.

Not surprisingly, the one line that sings out at the end of the evening, Jon Trenchard’s Ephesus Dromio’s “We came into the world like brother and brother, now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another,” scores by being played straight.

After 14 years, Propeller have built up a loyal following. But aren’t all-male companies now just a little bit out-of-date? What is the point of them?

The Duke of Ephesus: Richard Clothier.
Aegeon: John Dougall.
Antipholus of Syracuse: Dugald Brucke-Lockhart.
Antipholus of Ephesus: Sam Swainsbury.
Dromio of Syracuse: Richard Frame.
Dromio of Ephesus: Jon Trenchard.
Adriana: Robert Hands.
Luciana: David Newman.
Balthasar: Wayne Cater.
Angelo: Thomas Padden.
Officer: Dominic Tighe.
Courtesan: Kelsey Brookfield.
Pinch: Tony Bell.
Aemilia: Chris Myles.

Director: Edward Hall.
Designer: Michael Pavelka.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound: David Gregory.
Music: Propeller, Jon Trenchard.
Associate director: Paul Hart.

Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors was first presented at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield on 19 Jan 19 2011. It continues touring in Europe following its Hampstead season.

2011-06-28 13:17:14

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