The Comedy Of Errors ~ Red Lion, Barnes

The Comedy Of Errors is produced and presented by We Are Open Bar and you can catch it on its tour by checking the website for Shakespeare in the Garden, here: Shakespeare in the Garden

Star rating: *****

The Comedy Of Errors is not only the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays, but also arguably the most humorous. This version, set in the garden of a pub (indeed, it’s toured around many pubs in the Fullers chain) is inspired in that for such a farcical piece the surroundings lend themselves superbly to comings, goings and en route costume changes.

This production is not only unique due to its setting, but is also punctuated with musical modern twists throughout and it’s fair to say that we audience members were all singing along to “Twins, Twins” long after the ‘curtain’ had closed. Audience interaction and also participation was also the order of the day and kept us all on our toes. The ‘breaks in the story to interact with the crowd did not cause the piece to lose momentum and were all appropriately place.

The Comedy Of Errors revolves around Egeon – A merchant of Syracuse who is trying to avoid execution and has recently fathered twin boys. Simultaneously another pair of twin boys have been born to a poor woman and Egeon purchases them as slaves to his boys. Soon afterwards, the family made a sea voyage, and was hit by a tempest. Egeon lashed himself to the main-mast with one son and one slave, and his wife takes the other two infants. His wife was rescued by one boat, Egeon by another. Egeon never again saw his wife, or the children with her. Recently, his son Antipholus, now grown, and his son’s slave Dromio, left Syracuse on a quest to find their brothers. When Antipholus did not return, Egeon set out in search of him.

Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse are soon in the midst of chaos as, Adriana – wife of Antipholus of Ephesus meets with Antipholus of Syracuse and mistakes him for her husband. Easily done when they’re identical twins! The twins are also mixed up by Angelo, a goldsmith and various other characters who cross their paths.

It’s a fast paced, punchy play and the six strong cast under the direction of Nicky Diss more than do it justice. Thomas Judd as Antipholus of Ephesus  and other characters is a forceful and steely presence yet with excellent comic timing. Equally, Chris Whotton brings humour, mirth and gives a strong performance as Antipholus of Syracuse and other characters. Jo Wickham is exceptional as Adriana with perfect clear diction, facial expressions which communicate a great deal more than the script does at times and she’s a force to be reckoned with. Vicky Gaskin and Emma Longthorne give fantastically slapstick performances as their respective Dromios and are also notable in the other characters that they take on. Jennifer Healy is remarkable in her various roles of Adriana’s sister, Luciana, she also breathes new life into the role of the Duke of Ephesus, but amongst all of the roles that Healy makes her own, it’s Angelo the Goldsmith whom I felt she characterised brilliantly. Every part that she plays is so markedly different form the other that it could almost be easy to forget that it’s the same actress multi-tasking!

I can’t wait to see more from We Are Open Bar, they have produced my favourite incarnation of a Shakespeare play this year, so far – and I’ve seen a few! Go and see this while you can and enjoy the two intervals and the food on offer too!

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