By Sam Jones
Given its years of history, Castle Theatre Company’s Shakespeare Tour production carries a huge weight of expectation and tradition. This piles the pressure on the creative team to pull off a top-quality show, which I can say with confidence they have succeeded in doing with this production of ‘The Comedy Of Errors’.
The play follows two pairs of identical, long-lost twins whose paths unexpectedly cross in Ephesus, causing hilarious chaos to ensue. The choice to gender switch the roles of Adriana, Luciana and the Antipholus twins in this production brings a refreshingly new perspective to the play. The Fellow’s Garden is the perfect setting for the telling of the story, with the audience seated on chairs and blankets under the glorious afternoon sun, all ready to be thoroughly entertained.
Em Oliver’s exquisite skills as a director are on full show in this production. Amongst the chaos of the storyline, Oliver is able to find structure and clarity, setting each scene in a way which ensures the audience never loses track of what is happening, while also showcasing their creativity and flair. This is particularly evident in the moments where the ensemble is utilised to act out elements of what is being spoken on stage. Each scene is well-paced and cleverly choreographed such that the audience is kept engaged throughout. The clever use of the space in this production is also to be commended, as each area of the garden is utilised to create a sense of depth and immersion.
Under Oliver’s direction, the cast is able to shine, with every member of the company showcasing their sheer talent as a performer. My favourite moments of the play are when we see the whole company on stage together, as their chemistry as a team has a genuine sense of joy about it.
Ben Smart and Etienne Currah as the Dromio twins bring an infectious energy to the stage through their use of physicality and facial expression. Eleanor Sumner has a commanding stage presence as Antipholus of Ephesus, injecting a real sense of authority into the character and drawing your eye towards her whenever she is present in a scene.
The standout performance in this production is Isabella Thompson as Antipholus of Syracuse. Thompson effortlessly brings Shakespeare’s writing to life in a modern context, delivering each word with crystal clear diction and perfect comedic timing. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which she attempts to seduce Lucian, played by the wonderful Ben Lewis, to little avail.
The use of music in this production brings an extra level of fun to the story and a huge smile to my face. I particularly enjoyed the opening number ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ which is performed with true gusto by the cast and band, under the musical direction of Josh Tarrier. I would have liked to have seen the same energy injected into some of the instrumental transitions between scenes, which at times felt a bit lacklustre, slowing the pace of the production slightly.
Finally, the use of costumes to assist the audience in identifying the relationships between the characters is simple yet effective. The whole aesthetic of this production is vibrant and cohesive, elevating each performer’s personality on stage.
Overall, this production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ is a must-see for anyone who is still in Durham. Bring along a picnic and spend the afternoon in the sun watching this light-hearted and exquisitely portrayed piece of theatre, and I promise you will leave with a smile on your face.
Image credit: Castle Theatre Company