13 March 2014

The Comedy of Errors at the Rose Theatre

The Comedy of Errors was yet another one of the Shakespeare plays that I had not seen before so when Propeller brought it to the Rose Theatre it was an easy choice to go and see it.

I had seen Propeller twice before (The Winter's Tale at the Rose in 2012 and The Taming of the Shrew at Hampstead in 2013) and knew that it would be a good performance.

This was one of four shows at the Rose that I had booked at the same time with almost the same seats. This time it was A31.

It was good to see the theatre so full too, though some of this was down to groups of students who I presume had paid little or nothing to see it. The Upper Circle (the upper of three levels) was open and I do not recall it being used before.

The comedy in The Comedy of Errors comes from a simple source, two pairs of identical twins get separated in a storm at sea and end up unknowingly in the same city several years later.

What follows is two hours of mistaken identity gags in an increasingly confused situation until, finally, all four find themselves on stage at the same time and all the mysteries are solved.

Because it is Shakespeare there is more to it than that, including three love stories, but you get the gist.

The play is set in ancient Ephesus and Propeller presented it in modern dress and with a South American theme. They also added some music and just a few more lines. At least I am fairly certain that, "Don't you want me Baby? Don't you want me? Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh." is not in the original text.

Some of that may sound a little sacrilegious but Propeller do Shakespeare so well because they are faithful to the mood of the plays as they were originally presented.

So while a few extra words and music are added, all of the original words are kept, all of the actors are men and they engage the audience directly.

There were so many nice things about the production that it is impossible to mention them all so two examples will have to suffice to show the care with which the show was put together.

Before the play started in earnest, and while the audience was still coming in, the musicians played on the stage and some of the actors mixed with the audience. One of the characters, a policeman, wore leather trousers and whenever he walked a duck-call was used to make the sound of it squeaking.

The result of all this was a copious amounts of laughter from start to finish. It was a tremendous production by people who really know what they are doing. Propeller do Shakespeare just the way that I like it.

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