Ed Hall’s all-male Propeller has something of a reputation to live up to - priding itself on clarity, speed, imagination and exploring the richness of Shakespeare with rigour and invention.
And the lovingly crafted, colourful chaos of this Comedy of Errors does not disappoint.
The silliness of the plot – two sets of twins (identical even in their names) separated as children in a shipwreck wind up in the same place at the same time along, coincidentally, with their estranged father causing farcical mayhem and complications – lends itself to pantomime and that is how Hall plays it: pacy, racy and full of ridiculous sound effects, comic asides and slapstick.
Ephesus is a Costa del Sol-type resort full of blokes in football shirts and sombreros playing mariachi music (very competently) under the fairy lights, bunny girls and sellers of all things bling.
The cast work together seamlessly with each character beautifully honed – from Dugald Bruce-Lockhart and Sam Swainsbury as the two Antipholuses, and Richard Frame and Jon Trenchard as the Dromios to Thomas Padden’s gold-toothed jeweller, Dominic Tighe’s leather-clad officer, Chris Myles’s dominatrix Abbess, Kelsey Brookfield’s slinky prostitute and David Newman’s demure, Mace-wielding, martial arts expert Luciana.
Of particular note is Robert Hands as Adriana, who brings a new dimension to the expected harridan allowing the audience to see through the animal print-swathed, S&M-inclined shrew-like exterior to a vulnerable, emotionally confused, loving wife trying to deal with rather extraordinary circumstances.
Knockabout comedy is brought to the fore with audacious use of wheelie bins, entry phones, truncheons and inventively placed sparklers to name a few but the constant violence is a tad unsettling.
That said, Hall holds such tight control of the rhythm of the piece that despite the breathless pace and outrageous comedy, the reunion scene is sensitive, the mountainous kitchen wench description and the freeze-frame device for asides are oases of calm and collection.
With design by Michael Pavelka, the costume is a heady mix of Englishman abroad, crushed velvet, sixties throwback, smiley face Ts and lurex while the simple set is little more than the farce’s set piece doors and a moveable vestibule arrangement.
An entertaining two hours (plus an interval in which the excellent ensemble entertained).