This production of Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare at his most modern. All of director Tim Supple s choices - from the 1990s costumes, the everyday mannerisms, the pace and delivery of the dialogue and the clean, minimalist set - combine to render a thoroughly fresh interpretation of this classic comedy.
The Comedy of Errors revolves around two sets of same-named, identical twins - the masters Antipholi and their servants the Dromios who were separated as children during a shipwreck. The play begins as the adult Antipholus of Syracuse, a merchant, and his Dromio arrive in Ephesus unaware that their brothers have been living in the city for decades. It s a small place, though, and while the two avoid running into their doubles for the majority of the play, they are constantly confronted by many local ‘friends and ‘family that they never knew they had.
The spiralling confusion created by the mistaken identities and consequent false accusations and betrayals is the basis for the entire plot. If you re inclined to impatience, you may experience a sitcom-style frustration in the second act by the characters inability to understand what s so clear to you. But the pace is too fast and the performances too delightful to bother about this for long.
All of the twins are very good but, in the comparison of likenesses, it s impossible not to have favourites. Personally, I favoured the Syracuse bunch who produced some real fun-filled scenes, energised by the jumpy agitation of Robert Bowman s Antipholus and the bouncy incredulity of Eric Mallet s Dromio (particularly when he s pursued by the ‘spherical Nell .)
There were also some nice smaller roles. Thusitha Jayasundera portrayed Luciana with a languid and sexy, almost masculine ease and sibilant Leo Wringer brought a ramrod precision to the Duke and hysterics to excorsist Dr Pinch.
A unique added touch of Supple s direction is the twanging, otherworldly music which works well, except for the occasional drowning out of softer spoken actors. The music, composed specifically for this production, is performed by a trio of bohemian-looking musicians sitting Indian style on mats in front of the stage, strumming and drumming instruments you ve never heard of (the ‘ud, zarb and swarmandal aren t exactly standard music room fare). Very atmospheric.
This limited Royal Shakespeare Company engagement at the Young Vic, which follows a successful run in Stratford and an international tour, is absolutely the last chance to see Supple s Comedy of Errors. It s only on until 11 October so don t procrastinate in ordering tickets.
Terri Paddock, September 1997