The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s classic tales of chaos wrought through mistaken identity.
STC EdWharf 2, Sydney
Monday, 9 August, 2010
The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s classic tales of chaos wrought through mistaken identity. It’s all very confusing, but the short story is that Antipholus of Ephesus (Tahki Saul) and Antipholus of Syracuse (Brett Stiller) are twins separated at birth. The Syracusan twin finds himself befuddled when, unknowingly visiting his lost sibling’s home, he is mistaken for husband, master and connoisseur of fine jewellery. To add to the confusion, both twins have servants named Dromio (Julia Ohannessian and Richard Pyros), themselves twins separated by the same calamitous event that tore the Antipholi asunder. Hilarity ensues. The pseudo-graffiti typography of the promotional material initially had me worried that STC Ed and The Residents would be trying a bit too hard to get groovy with The Young People that this production is aimed at. However such concerns were swept aside in the first two seconds. Director Charmian Gradwell’s take on Shakespeare is innovative, exuberant and hilarious, but maintains the beauty and rhythms of the Bard’s language. Ohannessian and Pyros play the perfect fools, and Saul and Stiller perfectly fooled brutes, as the Dromios bear the brunt of both masters’ wrath as they give reports and sundry items to the wrong Antipholus. Alice Ansara’s performance as hapless Adriana, wife to one of the Antipholi, is just beautiful – alternately sulky and seductive with an ample dash of buffoonery. Adriana’s sister Luciana (Sophie Ross) is played with an impressive haughtiness that is quickly demolished by the strange goings-on. The main characters find themselves accosted by townsfolk who themselves bear similar features. Cameron Goodall finds himself playing a bereaved merchant, a jittery, beanie-clad addict/businessman, a witch doctor and a flamboyant courtesan. He’s brilliant as each. The same goes for Zindzi Okenyo as both a serenely holy Abbess and a purveyor of fine herbal substances. Ursula Mills is both Duke of Ephesus and Angelo the goldsmith, and despite her slight frame she injects a measure of swaggering male menace into each character. The talented and enthusiastic cast never lag during a performance that is both physically and verbally demanding. When actors aren’t onstage they’re off to the side, playing in a ramshackle mini-orchestra. Michael Lira’s score is a nice aural complement to the production’s visuals. Matthew Stegh’s design is outstanding. The programme touts the environmental friendliness of the use of recycled materials for sets and costumes, but really this is a secondary concern as Shakespeare is viewed through the syncretism of African and South American cultures. Stegh’s Ephesus is a shantytown cobbled together from cardboard boxes, held together with grime and graffiti. The impermanence of the winding streets serves as the physical embodiment of the shifting uncertainties everyone is experiencing as they try to work out what the hell is going on. I’m always surprised by the success of attempts to re-set Shakespeare in different historical and cultural settings. Each time I expect the translation to fall flat, but it rarely does. This Comedy of Errors is a case in point – Gradwell and her crew have invested a lot of energy into how best convey the shifting uncertainties of identity in the play. The result is fresh and highly enjoyable. Until 27 August 2010 Bookings: (02) 9250 1777