Having never read, studied or watched the play before there was very little that I knew about it before walking into the theatre last night to watch the RSC’s current production of ‘The Comedy of Errors’. This meant that I had no preconceived notion of how the play should have been done and no benchmark to compare the production to. I was a very impressionable audience member but I feel that even a lover of the play as a text and as a production could not help but fall in love with this production.
I was blown away by the set. The RSC’s imagination seems to know no bounds and they have made no exception for this production. A huge rusty crane hangs over the stage and parts of the stalls way up in the gods and the front part of the stage contains real water with broken decking around the edges. Barrels, crates and sacks completed the illusion of the busy dockyard and Dromio and Antipholus’s (of Syracuse) first entrance was made inside a crate which came swinging along the crane and was dropped on to the stage.
I think plays are made by their openings. You can tell whether a production is going to be good or great within the first few seconds. This particular production of Shakespeare’s comedy opened in complete darkness, you could hear movement on stage but it was impossible to see where the actors were. When the lights went up, Egeon’s head was being forcibly held under 6 inches of water in a fish tank by an armed guard. It was one of the most striking openings to a play I have seen in a long time and from that moment on, I knew that this production would be one I would not regret seeing.
The acting was exceptional as always, both sets of twins were fantastic but special mention has to go to the two Dromios, played by Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon, who not only looked incredibly similar (all credit to the wardrobe department) but all of their movements and characteristics were mirrored by each other to the extent that context alone told the audience which one was which. Jonathan Slinger, an actor who has bowled me over dozens of times in his performances at the RSC, appeared on stage for all of 3 minutes but was utterly fanastic (as ever) in his role as sadistic Dr Pinch, sent to cure Antipholus and Dromio of their ‘madness’. The sparks flying from the jump leads used to electrocute the protagonists made for a horrifying concept, the execution however was incredibly funny, with some ridiculous reactions from Felix Hayes and Stephen Hagan. My highlight of the show however had to be Kirsty Bushell’s portrayal of Adrianna. Her performance flicked between crazed eccentricity, hopeless desperation, violent rage and giddy delusion to create a character which was utterly compelling to watch.
All in all, this is a fantastic production and definitely worth a watch. So maybe the stage violence is completely unbelievable at times and it is slightly hard to believe that the two Anitpholus’s are even related, let alone identical twins but the acting is incredible, the set is stunning and the production will have you laughing from beginning to end.