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Shakespeare’s early comedy about two sets of twins and a lot of mistaken identity is the second show in the Open Air Theatre’s season. And I loved it.
Director Philip Franks has transported Epheseus to 1940s Casablanca for this production; the cast sport stylish 40s suits and dresses, with big, glamorous Hollywood-filmstar sunglasses. The Courtesan, played by Anna-Jane Casey, is now a nightclub owner, while the twin servants (both called Dromio) wear fezzes and seem to suffer more than usual in the heat of this foreign-feeling place.
This is a Comedy of Errors with an emphasis on the comedy. It’s not a terribly subtle production (gorilla suits and burlesque dance pieces in particular!), and knows exactly where the humour can be found in both Shakespeare’s text and in additional clever moments of slapstick.
As Antipholis of Syracuse, Daniel Weyman does a fantastic job of building the confusion and bewilderment throughout the play. I also enjoyed the performances of Joseph Kloska and Josh Cohen as the twin servants Dromio. Kloska’s hilarious description of a fat kitchen maid as a map of the world (with obligatory puns on the “Netherlands”) was brilliant, and made me think of just how incredibly timeless some of Shakespeare’s comedy can be.
The incredible attention to detail means you probably don’t spot all the intricate little looks, precise puns, and comedy in the crowd scenes the first time around. This is ensemble theatre at its best: when everyone on stage is working to create a perfect tableau. It all comes together beautifully.
But if you’re a fan of the sillier side of Shakespeare’s early stuff, as well as the snatches of sublime poetry that accompanies it, for example, in the tear-jerkingly happy ending, I would really recommend seeing this show.