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First Night: The Comedy Of Errors

Published 17 April 2008

The final Shakespearean offering in Shakespeare’s Globe’s The Edges Of Rome season is a right Roman romp. The Comedy Of Errors is an unlikely tale of twin brothers with twin servants separated at an early age, who happen to find themselves in the city of Ephesus simultaneously. Of course the people of Ephesus, who only know the set of twins that live there, make the mistake of assuming the new set, fresh from Syracuse, are the siblings they know. Matthew Amer was at the first night to attempt to cut through the confusion.

Director Christopher Luscombe has taken Shakespeare’s comedy of confused identities and blended it with a hefty helping of 60s and 70s sitcom. There’s a dollop of Benny Hill in there, a hint of Frank Spencer, a touch of Frankie Howerd, and more than a little Carry On. The combination of Rome and this style of humour worked in the past – Up Pompeii, Carry On Cleo – and again last night the marriage had the first night audience rolling in the courtyard.

Both Andrew Havill and Simon Wilson as the unknowing Antipholuses pass from bemused to confused and often abuse their twin servants Dromio, both classic comedy sidekicks. Such physical punishment is met with gongs, bird whistles and drum rolls from the show’s balcony-housed band in moments of classically cacophonous slapstick.

Sarah Woodward’s Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, borders on the slightly unhinged as she too is drawn into the doppelgänger-fuelled fun, inviting the new Antipholus into dinner and locking her own husband out.

Janet Bird’s colourful design, Roman but with the addition of bright fabrics, beehive haircuts and the occasional short skirt, adds to the lively feel of proceedings.

The wealth of visual gags, “phwoars” and sound effects serve to augment the Bard’s wit-packed script, often at its best in the conversations between master and servant. The discussion of a rather large servant woman who believes the new Dromio to be her husband – “a mountain of mad flesh that claims marriage of me” – was among the highlights for the first night audience whose laughter came both loud and often during the fast-paced evening.

MA

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