Quick Change Review: The Comedy of Errors (RSC)
There was a time in my teens where I worked at a popular, city centre restaurant alongside my identical twin sister. I was an experienced waitress, and she, put politely, was not. One particularly busy bank holiday weekend, chaos ensued in the restaurant as guests demanded drink top ups and tapped impatiently for their bill whilst chefs handed me orders for a different section and bar staff exasperatedly shouted me for service.
Whilst sitting in the red chairs of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden theatre, I smile at the memory after watching two sets of estranged brothers run wild and confuse an entire town. Luckily, my sister and I didn’t end up bound in rope.
Phillip Breen has reclaimed the title, The Comedy of Errors, from its infamous use regarding political handlings over the last two years. The RSC’s telling of Shakespeare’s adored comical play is mad, in the very best sense of the world.
The design by Max Jones catapults audiences into a grandeur world littered with oversized funfair teddy bears and extravagantly wrapped giftboxes. Styling inspired by the most garish fashions of the 80s alongside the cool set palette of regal teal and gold maximises on the capitalist themes that run throughout – this design is garish and really fun to feast on under the warmth of the surprising afternoon sunshine.
As the story unfolds, we learn of two brothers tragically separated at birth, both with servants of the same misfortune, and both pairs share the same names. The leading males; Guy Lewis, Rowan Polonski, Jonathan Broadbent and Greg Haiste, do a stellar job at commanding the stage with their Hangover-esque performance as they attempt to piece together their descent into hysteria.
Photo by Pete Le May
In particular, there is great applause to Broadbent’s breaking of the fourth wall as he recalls the confusion in finding himself married to a woman shaped like a globe. Also, Lewis’s spectacular use of timing in using hand sanitiser as his very pregnant “wife” Adrianna (Hedydd Dylan) marks her territory in a particularly hilarious sketch in a dining room.
The ensemble cast are a force to be reckoned with, each delivering high octane punches that are absolutely knockout. Despite being one of Shakespeare's oldest works, they deliver their parts in a way that is accessible and fun, flirtatious and pantomimed, making me invest in every character and their anxieties and flaws.
Photo by Pete Le May
Movement director, Charlotte Broom, squeezes stylish slapstick out of every crevice. We are treated to expertly timed falling wigs, tangling ropework, downward dogs, and camp combat perfectly pronounced by the script.
In absence of a light orchestration, The Comedy of Errors is sound tracked wonderfully by four on stage chorus members; Alex Saunders, Dunja Botic, Dale Harris and David Jones who deliver Paddy Cunneen’s exceptionally imaginative score with absolute gusto. Their presence is brightening as they deliver crystalline harmonies with as much sex appeal that can be mustered up in salmon chino pants.
RSC’s summer production of The Comedy of Errors is just the tonic needed to brighten up a dreary summertime. It is bonkers, over the top and self-indulgent, but you couldn’t look away even if you wanted to.
Catch The Comedy of Errors at RSC until 26th September before it heads on a UK tour.