The Comedy of Errors – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, November 2021
It may be one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, but The Comedy of Errors concerns one of his favourite and recurring themes: twins who are separated at birth, then discover each other at some point later.
The twins in this story are lost at sea in a terrible storm. The mother, the father, both the twins, and the two servants of the boys, who also happen to be twins, are eventually saved, but separately. Apart, they spend many years making lives for themselves.
Mistaken identities rule this play, and although there is some brilliantly funny dialogue, a seam of sadness runs throughout. Almost inevitably, the action really takes off when all the characters involved in the shipwreck converge in the same place. An absurd coincidence, which only the genius of Shakespeare can make palatable.
“Raucous and fast”
This performance is shown in modern dress, a situation which always divides Shakespeare fans, the early English words occasionally frictional against the garbs. However, the brilliance of the lines overcome any oddities, and the cast transport us with ease as the laughs come quick and fast and the major players do their stuff beautifully.
Guy Lewis has the major role of one of the twins, unaware that his identical twin is also in the area. His shock at being harangued and then made love to by the wife of his unknown twin is a sparkling and very funny piece of acting.
His servant, Dromio, is played superbly by Jonathan Broadbent, and is responsible for most of the laughs from the audience. Broadbent has the actions of a clown, and, along with his clever facial contortions, begins to dominate the stage. The action is raucous and fast and the many characters on the stage add to the chaotic atmosphere.
Praise must also go to Naomi Sheldon as the confused, angry and very pregnant wife of the second twin, as she has long sessions with the other perplexed twin, who she thinks is her husband, leaving the pair of them magnificently bewildered. Just to add to the turmoil both the twins have the same first name of Antipholus.
“Short and sharp”
The costume and make up department have done a fine job with the pairs of actors who are identical, and, although not actually the same in real life, the similarities of both are nicely captured by the department and appear as amazingly alike at the denouement.
The amount of players on stage occasionally requires some steadfast attention to stay with the action. This does, however, give rise to some clever and amusing short and sharp dialogue, which gives some welcome attention to the brilliant supporting actors, all of whom play their parts to perfection.
Shakespeare is the ultimate theatrical acquired taste, but I have loved it since my school days. It seems such a long time since the Royal Shakespeare Company was in the North and it was a treat to see them, albeit in a relatively marginal play.
The house was full and the laughter generated was proof, if any more was needed, of Shakespeare’s genius and longevity. It was a night to savour, and with a hope that we may not have to wait as long again to see more.