Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Review: The Comedy of Errors, RSC Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


Review: The Comedy of Errors, RSC Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre

Review by Steve Sutherland

Sunhats off to the RSC!

Could there possibly be a more apt play with which to re-open their dramatic operations after two long years of frustrated, locked-down inactivity than Shakespeare’s The Comedy Of Errors? Not blooming likely!

Truth be told, there’s not a scholar alive, nor never has been, that would dare claim Errors is anywhere near the Bard at his best. It’s an early work – first performed around 1594 – a farce, basically, which revolves around an improbable plot wherein two sets of like-named twin brothers are rent asunder then unknowingly thrown back together only to be endlessly mistaken for one another. Clunky, yes, chaotic, indisputably, but as a dramatic mirror held up against our current reality, it’s a doozy.

The Comedy of Errors (49397762)
The Comedy of Errors (49397762)

The brothers were separated years earlier, we are told by their bereft father, when they suspected a storm was about to cause a shipwreck, so ma took one son, Antipholus, and one servant, Dromio, and lashed them to a mast for safekeeping. Pa did ditto but the storm never arrived, their rudderless ship running aground on a rock instead, whereupon the two parties were lost to each other.

This, acted out in the very same week that track and trace rather than the Covid it was designed to suppress has brought our schools and businesses to a brutally bodged standstill is too beautifully ironic to be purely coincidental. Indeed, it is this production’s genius, and that of director Phillip Breen (at the helm of previous RSC stunners The Provoked Wife, The Hypocrite and The Merry Wives Of Windsor), that it takes every opportunity the text offers – plus some, cheekily, that it doesn’t – to highlight the absurdity of our current plight.

The Comedy of Errors (49397696)
The Comedy of Errors (49397696)

Guy Lewis plays one Antipholus brilliantly, as baffled, bemused and self-obsessed as BoJo often appears on the telly, making much nervous use of a hand sanitiser. Rowan Poloski plays the other bro’ more aggressively, like the privileged Eton BoJo lets slip occasionally, incandescent that the world doesn’t entirely revolve around him and him alone all the time.

The Comedy of Errors (49397794)
The Comedy of Errors (49397794)

The two Dromios are fab too, cruelly put-upon, sent this way and that, endlessly made to carry out tasks they don’t understand only to be berated when they do so and blamed when things go wrong. We know how they feel and we feel for them both, especially the principal, played with heroic bemusement by Jonathan Broadbent. The bit where he is pursued off stage by an unwanted love interest returning moments later drenched and covered in weed as if he’d just slipped into the adjacent Avon is a piece of theatre brilliantly aware of its new, outdoor surroundings.

In fact, the biggest laughs here are when the cast take liberties with what they’ve got to work with. It’s a series of very satisfying set-pieces rather than a wholly successful play, to be honest, but that’s not to say it isn’t an entertainingly clever couple of hours nonetheless. There’s a seriously silly and completely unnecessary scene about a waiter and a wig that had the tiers rocking, and the manner in which one of the play’s most famous and awkwardly xenophobic speeches (the one about how parts of a very ugly fat woman correspond to various nations) is made perfectly palatable by turning it into an italicised stand-up comedy skit shows a director and crew in total control of the material.

There are many other smart little touches too. When the mother Aemilia, who’s become an abbess in the intervening years, finally show up, she’s a ridiculously bluff Northerner through which Zoe Lambert delights in wringing some surprising comedy unsolicited by the Bard’s original. And then there’s Hedydd Dylan, heavily pregnant in real life, as the ill-used wife, Adrianna, part harpy, part heroine, all vim and vinegar, big hair and sharp nails, eyes incandescent, flashing with anger, cheeks flushed with amorous outrage. It’s a wonderful turn, up there with some of the finest RSC leads in living memory.

The Comedy of Errors (49397716)
The Comedy of Errors (49397716)

The setting’s colourful and lush – apparently it’s Dubai in the late 1980’s although that passed me by – and I could have done without the chorus twittering on during all the scene shifts but all-in-all, what a triumph!

Naturally all the chaos is eventually resolved, the brothers sort themselves out, the family is reunited and all live happily ever after; the very last scene unusual in that it’s devoted not to the posho bros but to the double Dromios who embrace then leave the stage with arms entwined.

In the end I guess it’s all about that hug. Here’s hoping it’s as prescient as it is emotional.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More