Æ Review – The Comedy of Errors

May 20 2011 | By More


David Grimes (Antipholus of Ephesus) and Chris Mackie (Dromio of Syracuse). Photo © Jon Davey (www.jondaveyphotography.co.uk)

By Thom Dibdin

Church Hill Theatre

Cartoon capers cut right through to the heart of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group’s twinkling new production up at the Church Hill Theatre until Saturday.

Clarity is all in any production of this twisting little tale of mistaken identities. It might not be the most complex of Shakespeare’s comedies, but it certainly keeps you on your toes with its two pairs of identical twins, one pair servants to the other, and both pairs separated as babies to be brought up in the warring cities of Syracuse and Ephesus.

Already renowned for their innovative staging, the Grads have done away with the set all together. Under Gordon Craig’s astute direction the stage of the Church Hill is little more than a black box. Its only embellishment a screen to the rear on which line cartoons and character names are shown – using nothing more complex than an overhead projector.

It does seem a little facetious at first, allowing John Kelly as Egeon and Neil Colquhoun as The Duke to give a lumbering interpretation of the opening scene. Having established the Duke’s right to kill Egeon as a stray citizen of Syracuse, unless he can fork out a hefty ransom, Egeon sets up the whole back story explaining that he is searching for his two estranged sons and their servants.

Once into the substance of the play and the little line drawings can be dispensed with, having served their purpose. If the drawings never try to be too clever, the later use of the projector to name characters could be more descriptive at times.

It takes Ross Hope as Egeon’s son Antipholus of Syracuse and Chris Mackie as his servant Dromio of Syracuse to release the language. It might not fly into the realms of belly-laugh that are possible given the right delivery as Antipholus mistakes Russell McIntosh’s Ephesus-based Dromio for his own servant, but the slapstick works and double-entendres are well-revealed.

Where Hope’s Antipholus is wary, particularly when the citizens of Ephesus start bringing him unasked for gifts in the street, his brother comes across as all bluster. David Grimes allows his Antipholus of Ephesus to get quite understandably bothered when his own wife won’t let him into the house for his dinner. It’s not so much the dinner, but that she claims her husband is already with her.

Which is your cue for plenty more cases of mistaken identity as, it seems, not even Antipholus of Ephesus’ own wife or the Courtesan whose arms he tumbles into as a result of her rejection (played with extra levels of knowingly coquettish appeal by Sarah Bates), can tell him apart from his brother. The same going for the Dromio twins, as the farcical comedy and unlikely coincidences just keep on building.

In such reduced theatrical circumstances as these, the voice is nearly everything. Not just in getting your tongue round the lines, but in getting those lines out to the audience. Unfortunately Helen Goldie – in the potentially hilarious role of Adriana, Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife – just doesn’t succeed in doing either for large parts of the production. Not only that, but she pulls Bronagh Finlay as Adriana’s flouncing sister, Luciana, into the same underpowered level of delivery.

Not that anyone really has an opportunity to relish their lines as this romps rapidly along – bringing the whole production home in just an hour and three quarters, including interval. Of course The Comedy of Errors can be a lot more chunky and full of bombast than this, but as a light and accessible taster it plays to its own strengths. It leaves you knowing that even if the play could be much more, you are still satisfied with what is a clear and inventive telling.

Run ends Saturday 21 May

Grads Website


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