The Comedy of Errors review: ‘the whole audience was smiling’

Harvey Comerford (Antipholus of Syracuse) and Dom McGovern (Dromio of Ephesus)
Harvey Comerford (Antipholus of Syracuse) and Dom McGovern (Dromio of Ephesus)

By Suzy Hawes

The Comedy of Errors is a farcical, slapstick comedy. It follows the story of two sets of identical twins and the havoc this creates when they are mistaken for one another. This production succeeded in being energetic, cohesive and hilarious while making the complexities of Shakespeare’s writing completely understandable. All elements of the production worked together seamlessly to create a light hearted and extremely enjoyable experience, in the joyful atmosphere of a sunny British afternoon.

Having read the synopsis beforehand, I expected to find myself confused for most of the play. Quite the opposite, the expressiveness of the talented cast meant that the story was clear, and I found myself laughing throughout. The entire cast worked together with such camaraderie that in the final scene when they all came together, the whole audience was smiling. There was not a single weak link amongst the ensemble, and the actors with less prominent roles brought great bursts of energy throughout, with special mention to Carrie Gaunt (Emilia), and Ellis-anne Dunmall (Courtesan).

That being said, the lead actors held their own. Harvey Comerford (Antipholus of Syracuse) was wonderfully believable throughout the farce going on around him, transitioning between anger, confusion, and being lovesick with impressive ease. Both Dom McGovern (Dromio of Ephesus) and Tristan Robinson (Dromio of Syracuse) were a joy to behold whenever they graced the stage. They both displayed wonderful physicality and expression, and reeled in the most laughs between them.

Jenny Walser (Luciana) was extremely skilled in drawing out the meaning from her lines and not wasting a single word, showing a great understanding for the text and wonderful expression throughout. Hugh Train’s (Antipholus of Ephesus) rage at the chaos around him was extreme and somewhat shocking in the peaceful setting of the beautiful garden, but extremely funny nonetheless. Sophie McQuillan (Adriana) succeeded in portraying a more emotional character in the comedy around her, but also bringing out great moments of humour. While some performances were somewhat over the top, in the context of farcical comedy, this added to the humour rather than detracting from it.

The cast also coped brilliantly with a pair of handcuffs coming open and accidentally releasing Train who was supposed to have been arrested – considering its title, there was bound to be at least one error.

The location of Fellows Garden in Durham Castle was a perfect choice for this production. It had the potential to be too large a space, as there was a lot of ground for the actors to cover, but the cast were sufficiently skilled to rise to the challenge. There was a slight issue with sound, especially when the wind was blowing, but this was obviously out of their control and the actors did extremely well to project their voices as they did.

The cast had to walk through the crowd of audience members who were camped out in the grass frequently throughout, but they did this with ease and never broke out of character. It seemed natural and aided the comedy, especially when one of the actors remarked on how busy it was outside. The only quibble I have regarding the set is with regards to attention to detail. If the two deck chairs had been swapped around, then the large Tesco labels wouldn’t have been visible.

The costumes chosen also worked extremely well within the entire aesthetic of a British summertime. They were of high quality and were in keeping with the setting and the interpretation of the play. Ellie Gauge’s directorial vision was clear and coherent throughout, and Kate Barton (Producer) should be commended in finding such well suited costumes and props.

The slapstick comedy in this production was at risk of looking old-fashioned, but Gauge’s direction meant that it was well timed, well-choreographed and extremely funny – particularly the moment when Comerford launched in to a tirade of girlishly slapping McGovern. This production was a triumph and Gauge has outdone herself with her final production;it will be a shame to see Durham lose such a talent.

Castle Theatre Company’s The Comedy of Errors was enjoyable, entertaining and most importantly, very funny. It was a great example of the theatre that can be produced when you have a fantastic cast, a fantastic production team and a fantastic venue. This was a brilliant start to what promises to be a fantastic tour, and I wish them the best of luck on their way. Make sure not to miss their last performance before they head off around the country!

Until 12 May at Fellow’s Garden.

Photograph: Florence Chater

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