As Melbourne hits peak laughing season (it's the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for anyone living under a rock), the Melbourne Shakespeare Company has come to the party with one of the Bard’s silliest plays. Where previous works have touched upon mistaken identity and twins (Twelfth Night), The Comedy of Errors takes it to the extreme. Two sets of twins, separated at birth; Antipholus of Syracruse and his servant Dromio of Syracruse arrive in Ephesus where their identical twins reside, both bearing the same name and face as their twin.
With neither twin aware of the others existence, the pairings are constantly mismatched with Dromio of Ephesus regarding Antipholus of Syracruse as his master and vice versa. Throw in a high maintenance wife, smitten sister-in-law and barbershop quartet (yes really) and you have an hour and a half of hilarity or disaster, whichever you prefer.
All preceded by the unexpected arrival of a mysterious man sentenced to death after being shipwrecked in Ephesus.
The plot itself is enough to make your head spin, but the Melbourne Shakespeare Company takes the story of mass miscommunication and mistaken identity and runs with it to hilarious effect.
Employing the use of slapstick humor and physical comedy, the casting of Nathaniel Schneider as Antipholus of Ephesus and Jonathan Peck as his twin Antipholus of Syracruse is excellent. The pair have a knack for being able to express themselves by contorting their bodies with acrobatic precision and are gleefully naughty throughout the performance.
Joined by Nicola Bowen as Dromio of Syracuse and her “twin” Madeleine Stewart as Dromio of Ephesus, this pair keep the action moving as they are sent on numerous errands by their respective masters only to return to the wrong Antipholus and bear the brunt for their “errors”.
Whilst Bowen plays into the farcical side of the comedy, Stewart is the more downtrodden of the twins, having led a more brutal life under the hands of her master. The subtle way she expresses her melancholy whilst not undermining the comedy of the plot is remarkable, and is as touching as it is humorous.
MSC is notorious for incorporating 21st Century pop music with 16th Century Shakespearean prose, and The Comedy of Errors is no different. A unique twist on “The Band” a sort of Greek Chorus if you will, weave in and out of the story, vocalising characters thoughts and adding the flavor of nonsensical humor on show.
As one of Shakespeare’s more ridiculous plays and also one of his shortest, this one act comedy is an easy way to spend an afternoon. Set up outside at Siteworks in Brunswick, The Comedy Festival vibe is very present. The Comedy of Errors for all its wonderful mirth is a tribute to the fun and frivolity of Shakespeare. It’s not all death and drama, a la Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth…. I could go on, but rather a ray of silliness in an all too serious world.
Melbourne Shakespeare Company presents
The Comedy of Errors
by William Shakespeare
Venue: Siteworks | 33 Saxon Street Brunswick VIC
Dates: 25 March – 2 April 2017