It pays to concentrate on the 421 word opening speech by Fred Ridgeway’s Egeon in William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, as it explains the complex story. Once you have grasped the plot with its twists and turns, you can enjoy the slapstick, word puns and mistaken identities that make up this funny farce.
Egeon has twin boys, both called Antipholus. He buys another set of twins who share the name Dromio to be his sons’ servants. Following a ship wreck involving Egeon, his wife and the four siblings, he saves one Antipholus and one Dromio but abandons his wife and the others. It helps to call those he rescues, the Syracuse pair.
After 25 years, Egeon travels to Ephesus to find his lost family. It is best to call the lost pair, the Ephesus pair after the town where they have lived and Antipholus has married. Egeon doesn’t realise that the Syracuse pair have gone there, too. Still with me? Good, well, Syracuse and Ephesus are at war, Egeon is arrested and must pay a ransom by sunset or die.
You can now imagine what happens when locals get the twins mixed up. Thanksfully, the Royal Exchange has managed to cast two sets of twins who look alike, yet are sufficiently different for the audience to distinguish between them. But, then everything about this fast paced production is expertly executed as it is in the safe hands of Guest Director, Roxana Silbert, the Associate Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
With a seasoned Bard pro like Silbert in charge, the movements are swift and well-timed and the actors draw out every ounce of comedy, without over egging the pudding.
The Syracuse Antipholus (Sam Collings) is the perfect foil for the Ephesus Antipholus (Jack Farthing) and there are some merry romps when the latter’s wife, Adriana (Orla Fitzgerald) thinks the former is her husband. A contemporary audience laugh at the 16th century jokes when Ephesus Antipholus is locked out and when Syracuse Antipholus flirts with Adriana’s sister, Luciana (Sarah Ovens).
The laughs continue to come thick and fast as Michael Jibson and Owain Arthur as the two Dromios are natural clowns. I like the way Michael, the Syracuse one, jokes about his bald pate and makes lewd remarks about the cook!
Owain’s Welsh accent spells out they are from different countries. When his so-called master beats him, I swear his yelp can be heard in St. Ann’s Square!
Sydney Florence’s costumes are out of this world and add glamour to this rolicking, high flying, laugh-a-minute romp.