Conceptualised in 1998 as a class project at New York University, The Bomb-itty of Errors did the rounds in the US before coming to the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, collecting a couple of awards on its way to the West End.
Given all the pre-opening publicity, it's perhaps unnecessary to point out that this is a modern hip-hop take on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. On first reading that, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a mistake to put Shakespeare and hip-hop in the same sentence, or for suspecting this show is the misguided effort of a group of aging die-hard classicists desperate to enlighten the youth. I did. But this mayhem musical is far too intelligent, and far too streetwise, for that. What's more, against such odds, it's a hit.
For those less acquainted with the bard's Roman-set story, The Comedy of Errors tells the tale of two sets of identical twins separated at birth in a shipwreck. Twenty years later they find themselves in the same town, but oblivious to each others' proximity, the four get caught up in a web of confusion - the result of Shakespeare's old comic chestnut: mistaken identity - though, of course, all's well that ends well.
Bomb-itty - directed by Andrew Goldberg and designed by Nick Barnes - preserves the essence the original, but makes adjustments where necessary to provide a contemporary context. The twin's troubled background, for example, is attributed more to their drug-dealing father's addictions than any act of nature. Middle English is scrapped and replaced with a constant stream of rap (written by a team of five) as an equally eloquent form of narrative performed to hip-hop beats spun by DJ Kevin Shand live on stage. All of which makes for a surprisingly fresh spin on an age-old classic.
This show is a rare thing indeed - a hit that lives up to its hype. It deserves a long and successful run in the West End, where it should appeal to anyone who appreciates high quality and inventiveness, and most particularly to younger audiences who may be less acquainted with theatre. Bomb-itty is two hours and fifteen minutes of pure uplifting pleasure.