Offering Double the Amount of Fun. "The Comedy of Errors" by William Shakespeare. The Bell Shakespeare Company. [review]
Bramwell, Murray Ross
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In director John Bell’s fast-paced farce, Ephesus is a Turkish town with (in Jennie Tate’s lively design) splodgy whitewashed walls, market stalls and sinister types in Commedia half-masks. The fez is the chapeau of choice, as are turbans like minarets and the sort of harem pants Jeannie would dream of. And, adding to the Maxfield Parrish colour and the catchy Arabic grooves from composer Phillip Johnston, is some real before-your-eyes magic from Ross Skeffington, tying scarves in knots, frisking an audience member’s jacket and materialising fluttering doves. The play opens as the Duke (David Davies) looking more like a South American brigand, demands that the beleaguered Egeon (played with distinction by Robert Alexander) explain himself. It is the longest speech in the play and Alexander navigates it with measured care. But, from then on, the pace is hectic as the interchanging Antipholi and Dromios perplex themselves and everybody else by not recognising each other, or a wife, or the merchant who sold them a gold chain until, eventually, everything is in a spin of cross-purposes. There are some excellent performances here. Blazey Best is notable as the bewildered wife Adriana, especially when she despatches a clunky exposition speech with fast forward speed. Anna Volsky transforms from Sister Wendy to Emilia the long lost mother. Sean O’Shea and Christopher Stollery play the Antipholus twins with raffish charm and Paul Eastway as Dromio of Ephesus is a nice foil to Dareen Gilshenan who is outstanding as Dromio One - all swagger and comic business in clown-red cap and stripes. He is hilarious to watch and his nasal delivery, complete with Ron Glumm intonation, only adds more appeal to a portrait of a wily servant.