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The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare's shortest play and probably the most accessible, but it's rarely as accessible as this. Transported to a seedy looking Mediterranean resort, this is Shakespeare for a generation that likes its humour crude and delivered at a frantic pace. It works perfectly thanks to some strong ensemble playing and the inherent strength of Shakespeare's writing.

Shakespeare borrowed the plot from Plautus – added the twist of another pair of twins and created a high-spirited farce. Director Edward Hall stirs up the mix and bit more and Shakespeare almost takes a back seat to the sight gags, sound effects, slapstick and musical interludes.

Propeller productions are renowned for their emphasis on physical theatre and Hall has incorporated plenty of slapstick into the staging. There's a feel of early Hollywood comedies, indeed the production borrows heavily from classic comedians such as Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers but there are some very 21st century touches: the riding-crop wielding Abbess (looking more like the madam of a Soho S&M parlour), the fake Southern-preacher Pinch (Tony Bell surely performing above the call of duty in his final scene) and the martial arts enthusiast Luciana.

The pace doesn't let up for an instant – particularly when Sam Swainsbury as Antipholus of Ephesus delivers his frantic resume of the action before the bemused Duke.

This is a perfect production for anyone who thinks Shakespeare is boring. It highlights the strength of the writing and delivers laughs by the bucketload. It's true that some of the speaking could be better – some words get lost in the action – but one gets caught up in the frantic, dizzying farce and the bravura ensemble playing. This is fantastic entertainment and don't be tempted to stay in your seat in the interval – the party continues in the bar.

- Maxwell Cooter


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