Officer (Bridget Sweeny) opens this outdoor production with a community service announcement for the peasants of Ephesus because they did not have a valid ticket for the 96 tram. These are no ordinary peasants though, they can sing “Acapella barbershop” style. Although they are forbidden to have fun they just can’t help busting out the tunes. Egeon (May Jasper) attempts to join in but being from Syracuse they are sentenced to death by the lively Duke of Ephesus (Augustin Tchantcho). After sharing how they came to be there in search of their twin sons the Duke gives mercy saying they have one day to raise bail and save their life. A comedy of errors ensues.
The production like the Rose Garden it is set in, is heavy on colour but light on the senses. With bright characters wafting in from every direction. Director Ben Adams has cut up this comedic Shakespeare play into a palpable selection of tapas dishes and served it on a bed of roses, delicious.
The physicality of the cast is top notch – seeing them being beaten, pulled, twisted, lifted, tripped and bound is a delight to watch. Special mention to the Antipholus and Dromio tickle machine. The well executed slapstick throughout the piece keeps the audience giggling with the infamous door scene a highlight of the production.
The grandest entry and exit belongs to the Courtesan (Anna Francesca Armenia) who has her own theme song along with all the trimmings. Most memorable joke goes to Sailor (Sarah Wynen) when they apologise for drawing on a mad Antipholus, the delivery was perfect.
Adriana (Jacqueline Whiting) rampages through the world instilling fear into cast and audience alike with her gaze. Countered nicely by her sibling Luciano (Adam Canny) and wanna be lover Antipholus of Syracuse (Jonathan Peck). The Acapella humming behind the courting scene is a sublime example of the show's aestichic supporting the story.
The only shortfall in the production was the stakes for the characters seemed pretty low. Audience engagement relied entirely on pace, energy and physicality. Meaning when they did slow down in the middle briefly it would have been better to drop any gags that fell flat in order to keep the pace of comedy alive. The two sets of twins always managed to bring the fire though and were well cast by the Melbourne Shakespeare Company.
Antipholus of Syracuse (Peck) was a driving force throughout never dropping the ball. Antipholus of Ephesus (Callum Mackay) simmered to a boil finalling unleashing a strange savage beast from deep within, to bring the show home. Mackay revelled in this beastly display, igniting the text and pouncing on anyone who transpired against him. The final act was Cast V Mackay with both sides playing to win.
Tref Gare supported strongly throughout portraying several roles and finishing strongly with a well grounded Abbott. MSC Comedy of Errors is a great showcase of comedic physical Shakespeare that is accessible to all ages. Choreography by John Reed is commendable and the costume design by Aislinn Naughton adorned the cast beautifully amongst the roses.
Melbourne Shakespeare Company presents
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
by William Shakespeare
Director Ben Adams
Venue: St. Kilda Botanical Garden
Dates: 3 – 19 December 2021