This is an EXCELLENT production and the whole audience was in hysterics when i went to see it. I don't understand how anyone could describe this as not funny. I fear they may be a little stuffy in their attitude towards theatre. The modern context works really well and all the students I took to see it absolutely loved it. Ok, so maybe the very small minority of people who are Shakespeare experts and go to the theatre on a regular basis would find some of the special effects distracting, but for a lot of people the theatre and certainly Shakespeare is something they feel they should enjoy but often find difficult and boring. This production makes Shakespeare accessable and a joyful, life affirming experience. - sarahlund
04 Mar 12
I loved this production - took my 12 year old son as his first ever Shakespeare and it couldn't have been a better choice. I agree that some of the words got lost in the first half but the second half was a hoot. Really excellent, not over lengthy, Elizabethan farce! - Tricia
04 Feb 12
Well, I'd like to give it 3.5.....I haven’t seen an entire street on the Olivier stage sine John Gunter built part of the city of Bath for The Rivals in 1984. Bunny Christie’s street has an extra third storey on the houses and is a bit (intentionally) shabbier, but is spectacular nonetheless. It transforms to create an apartment block, shops, nightclub and a clinic.
There is much else to enjoy in Dominic Cooke’s NT debut, but it doesn’t really sparkle like other productions I’ve seen, most recently Propeller at Hampstead in 2010 and I’m not entirely sure why. The pacing is a bit uneven; one minute it’s zipping along, then appears to have ground to a halt. I don’t know whether it has been cut, but it came in at just 2 hours 10 mins with a 20 minute interval, so I suspect it has - though not noticeably.
I liked the idea of acting out Egeon’s opening speech describing how he lost his wife and twin sons (and their twin servants). The more frenetic scenes are given a ‘keystone cops’ style that somehow made them seem fresh though still appropriate for the material. The Abbey has become the Abbey Clinic and one half of both twins end up ‘sectioned’ there after a particularly slick chase scene involving an ambulance driving onto the stage! I also like the idea that the twins have different accents, having been brought up in different places, though Shakespeare didn’t write any lines like ‘why are you speaking funny?’ to support this, so there’s even more disbelief to be suspended than usual! Despite the comedy that preceded it, the closing scene was much more moving than I’ve ever seen it before. I wasn’t sure about the band playing familiar songs in a foreign language at first, but I warmed to it.
After what seemed like a hesitant start, the acting was first-rate. The twins are well matched, particularly Lucien Msamati and Daniel Poyser as the Dromio’s. Lenny Henry has as much presence and as good a speaking voice as he did in Othello, but is much more relaxed in a comic role where he is able to use his full range of facial expressions. Claudie Blakely’s Adriana and Michelle Terry’s Luciana are deliciously chavvy creations.
So a good rather than great Comedy of Errors, but one I’m glad I saw. - Gareth James
04 Jan 12
The Comedy of Errors begins with a stirring recreation of the separation of a husband and wife and two pairs of twins and ends with a moving reunion. In between though it's completely daft and woe betide the production that tries to find a serious subtext to a ridiculous farce of mistaken identities which would collapse under the merest scrutiny. Fortunately Dominic Cooke avoids those pitfalls and chucks in all the Olivir's resources to ensure everything moves along at a pace to rival One Man Two Guvnors. Lenny Henry is ideally suited to such physical comedy and the quality of his verse speaking is also clear even through his accent which is Syracuse via the Caribbean - unfortunately this is not true of all of the cast. Chris Jarman is equally good as the increasingly bewildered Antipholus of Ephesus (which is apparently in East London) and there is an inspired decision to portray his wife and sister-in-law as bottle-blonde WAGs, superbly played by a rather croaky Claudie Blakly and a revelatory Michelle Terry revealing a hitherto unsuspected resemblance to Catherine Tate. The Comedy of Errors may have all the substance of a souffle compared to Shakespeare's later work but this is a terrific production and a splendid way to spend a soaking wet New Year's afternoon.
- David Baxter
02 Jan 12
Though understanding the comments made by this reviewer what he misses is the sheer fun of this production. Hats off to the national theatre you made us laugh. I agrre the first scene does need less noise : the ambulance scene is is season its pure pantomine. - Brian Hudson
01 Dec 11
I agree with Michael Coveney's review. I also found the play persistently unfunny. I was expecting this to be furiously paced but the first half was very sluggish. The set is distracting and the modernisation just doesn't work at all. Very disappointing evening. - Sam
01 Dec 11
What a great reader review that was from steveatplays - very fair and very honest. - Tom
29 Nov 11
This farcical play presents us with a number of double acts, and to the extent that these double acts are mined for laughs, the play succeeds. As it happens, Lenny Henry and Lucian Msamati are one terrific double act, and Claudie Blakley and Michelle Terry are another terrific double act. Chris Jarman and Daniel Poyser do not work quite as well. Bunny Christie's masterful set is an enormous brutalist cube, with myriad doors and passageways, that twist and turn in ingenious seemingly magical ways. Shakespeare's play is complicated in it's comedic set-up, and I recommend reading the short synopsis on the free cast list before it begins. One man who didn't was still convinced at the interval that one of the twins was a girl, and that there was only one pair of twins, and was baffled when his wife explained that there are two sets of male twins. The production mirrors the National's gem, One Man Two Guvnors in more ways than one. First, it utilises a band in between scene changes, which perform rather lovely renditions of popular tunes like "Crazy" and "Mad World." Second, Lenny Henry brilliantly pursues the James Corden acting playbook of alternating between sincere acting and bug-eyed ham. This is important as this is first and foremost a very broad comedy, and ham always gets the most laughs. As the twin servants, both called Dromio (apparently both sponsored by Emirates airlines/stadium and/or Nike), Lucian Msamati and Daniel Poyser are expert at being comedically beaten about the head and person by their masters. Claudie Blakley is a comedic revelation, incarnating the wealthy Essex girl stereotype to perfection, sporting towering heels, a short skirt and oodles of attitude(at one point she leaps onto a snooker table). Her pinch-browed dimbulb abrasive sidekick of a sister, played by Michelle Terry, is equally hilarious, and they are the comedic pairing of the year. Unfortunately, as Lenny Henry's twin brother, Chris Jarman is no comedic match, and plays his scenes so strightly he defuses them, and thus the play as a whole, of it's full comedic potential. All said, while this may not be as funny as One Man Two Guvnors, it is a great night out, hysterically funny in places and a worthy Shakespearean comedic effort for the National. (This review is of Saturday night's fifth of six previews). - steveatplays
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