'The Comedy of Errors' review or 'Bananas, boobs and batty acting.'
'The Comedy of Errors', William Shakespeare
The Rose Theatre, Thursday 5th April 2012
Written for The Stage
It'd be hard to find two more contrasting takes on Shakespeare's, The Comedy of Errors, than the National's recent, flashy production and the inevitably slapdash affair at the tiny Rose Theatre. At the National, when Egeon describes his sons' separation at sea, Bunny Christie's gargantuan set was cleft in two. At the Rose, a massive toothpick is snapped in half.
Unable to compete with The National's subsidised splendour, director David Pierce has wisely opted for an endearingly amateurish production. Every prop, costume and stage effect is overtly shoddy. Dukes ride about on pathetic toy horses, the actors might've dressed themselves and much of the scenery is scrawled on paper.
It reminds one of a school nativity play; good-hearted but haphazard. Whilst this loose approach works initially, allowing for some silly slapdash moments (bananas are bandied all over the place), the jokes wear thin as Shakespeare's 'farce' turns more complex.
The actors visibly sag, as the plot begins to outpace them. The comic grandstanding feels out of place and the straight characters, out-acted and practically forgotten, struggle to resurrect their roles. Even Elizabeth Bloom, whose Adriana is a bonkers cross between Hyacinth Bucket and Miss Piggy, cannot save this sinking production.