By Kate Wilson
It's on my 'bucket list' to see as many of Shakespeare's plays on stage as possible. So far I'm only up to 13 of a possible 38, but very I'm pleased to have made it to a baker's dozen with Bell Shakespeare's refreshingly upbeat production of The Comedy of Errors at BREC tonight.
There was a real buzz in the foyer after the show, which ran for almost two hours without intermission. As far as I know it's Shakespeare's shortest comedy, and such was the momentum of the action that an intermission would have been too much of an interruption. I don't think anyone in the crowd was expecting such a fast-paced, high-energy performance, and there was definitely an amused giddiness as we walked out of the auditorium. Or, should I say, nightclub?
The set, which consisted of several double-doors across the back of the playing space and words displayed above them in LED lights, was cleverly utilised (with the help of other stage pieces and lighting) to paint every scene in a unique location in Ephesus, but with the same inner-city, nighttime vibe. (Did I see a Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne on stage at one point, or was that just my imagination?) Particular location highlights were table-tennis tables at an all-night gym and a washing machine inside Antipholus of Ephesus's apartment which made for some interesting interplay between the other Antipholus and his twin's wife's sister. (Confused yet?)
If you weren't privy to tonight's performance and are not too familiar with The Comedy of Errors, it's the story of two sets of twins who have been separated at birth and don't find each other again until they have found themselves in a hilarious tangle of mistaken identity. The modern setting made it even funnier, because caught up in the whole debacle are Gucci-clad women (tanning bed included), ladies-of-the-night in drag, a very large g-string, and a nun with a speech impediment.
The actor playing the nun was fantastic and I thought she stole the show with that character in the final scenes. She also played the significant role of the Courtesan who gets mixed up in the tale, but the two characters were indistinguishable from each other.
I think most of the audience will agree that the most enjoyable part of the show was the chase-scene-come-clubbing-sequence, which in true farcical style involved lots of entrances and exits through the doorways on stage without seeing each other, and in true Aussie style ended in binge drinking, dancing and vomiting.
Because the story is so rich in slapstick humor, the old-school language didn't seem to be much of a barrier to understanding what was going on, even if we didn't catch every line of the very fast-paced dialogue. Bless them for using their raw voices and not being mic'd. It's a pleasure to hear well-trained voices filling an enormous space. The actor playing Antipholus's wife Adriana had to do a lot of yelling, and she sure had a voice on her!The poor Dromeo twins, who are slaves to the Antipholus twins, got the full slapstick treatment of being beaten up by their masters and running into doors at every opportunity… but in an endearing way.
Make no mistake, The Comedy of Errors is a high-rise apartment building full of laughs and will leave you wishing you had a long lost twin somewhere!
Bucket list *tick*!