26 July 2011
The COMEDY of ERRORS
"performed by the Oxford Shakespeare Company,"
By: Julia Gasper
Wadham College Gardens.
If you saw last year’s production of The Tempest by the Oxford Shakespeare Company, or their hilarious and
memorable Twelfth Night the year before that, you will have high expectations of their new show, The Comedy of
Errors. And you will not be disappointed. From the very first moment when the show bursts into life with a dance,
it is full of energy, vitality and verve. There is not a hint of reverence anywhere for this early comedy by
Shakespeare - the lines are there, yes, but transformed into a rip-roaring entertainment with clowns, puppetry,
absurd sound-effects, and cheeky visual jokes.
The all-singing, all-dancing company has completely transformed this quaint tale of mistaken identities and turned
it into a fast-moving, sometimes farcical, slapstick play with, at one point, even a pie in the face for Dromio of
Syracuse (a tradition recently revived in favour of Rupert Murdoch). Howard Gossington doubles as both Antipholus
of Ephesus and his long-lost brother Antipholus of Syracuse, who is astounded to be grabbed, floored and straddled
by a woman claiming to be his wife.
His does one of the funniest drunken routines I have ever seen. Alica Davies makes a splendidly fiery Adriana,
seeming to be a fearsome shrew, (a forerunner of Kate) but really just a very angry neglected wife, who perches on
a bar-stool, to become a lady Singin’ the Blues. Nicholas Chambers plays both the slaves - Dromio of Ephesus and
Dromio of Syracuse, and James Lavender does his best to steal the show with his drag acts, first as a courtesan
then as an Abbess with a costume straight out of The Sound of Music. Andrew Piper turns the role of the Duke’s
officer into a classic comic policeman.
The movement is fast, the story is always just clear enough for us to understand the confusion, and the use of
musical arrangements (by Paul Knight) is very witty. I have a few tiny reservations - Antipholus of Syracuse does
really need a smarter pair of trousers, and the “wind” jokes in the last Act were surely taken too far. No need to
labour them. Nevertheless, this is a jolly good evening out and it does what it says on the tin. “Comedy”. Fun,
laughter and entertainment, without a doubt.