Review of ‘The Comedy of Errors’: “Good old camp”

Shakespeare’s most farcical work returns to the Globe in a visually staggering production at itts open-air theatre. Guillermo Nazara shares his thoughts on this version bringing back the full allure of the 1600s, to let us know if this silly-fun piece was actually a fool’s errand.

Roses are red, violets are blue. And that’s all the effort I put into you. Well, alright, Shakespeare may have done more than just penning a simple plot and stuffing it with lots and lots of slapstick nonsense. But the talent that earned him the nickname of The Bard probably had not blossomed by the time he did it. It’s a fact that some fans of the English playwright see this piece as one of his lowest efforts – there’s fair reason for that when you compare it to his grandest creations. Still, there’s a whole lot to debate to be done on the subject…

We all know the story…. Made you nervous for a moment, didn’t I? Two identical twins, separated at birth and living in two different lands, are to be reunited years after. But not with each other (at least, not until chaos runs free), but with the friends and families that they have grown up with and that now, mistake them for the other. Turmoil, confusion and a savoury dose of bitch-slapping are soon to stud this senseless display of absurd misunderstandings.

Shakespeare may have not pounded out something masterful through this text, whose use of words lacks the refined sensitivity for sound and meaning that later became his signature godlike skill. Similar to the style, the pacing does not flow as seamlessly and with the clever structuring his magnum opus can brag about. Still, the dramatic abilities of a young, incipiently genius writer can be noticed quite smoothly – occasionally soaring over a plot that, though not too elaborate, is anyway bloody (in every sense) good fun.

The understanding of Shakespeare’s shortfall on intellectual content is precisely what’s made this production genuinely brilliant. It’s not intended to be transcendent – at least, not when it comes to its narrative. It’s just nice 400-old-fashioned entertainment with one basic purpose: to let us dive into a spectacle of laughter and fantasy where all our only concern is to have fun. And in so, Sean Holmes’s concept has honestly taken the piece to a whole new level.

Reenacted in the aesthetics of the author’s times, the visual richness of the montage stems from its usage of intricate Renaissance costumes (credit to Paul Wills) and additional staging devices that, though maintaining the period’s essence of minimal or even non-existent sets, contribute to the overall splendour of its looks. Also featuring a live orchestra playing archival instruments, this historically-conscious approach is, by far, one of the Globe’s most laudable achievements – for both bringing back the spirit of the venue while also presenting us with a true medieval extravanganza.

Relying on a impassioned company providing an excellent delivery of both characters and lines, the most impressive rendition is given by Michael Elcock as Antipholus of Syracuse – playing the part with outstanding charm and almost perfect comedic timing. He is well complemented by Jordan Metcalfe’s portrayal of his servant, Dromio – delivering a hilarious performance through his electrifying drollery and infectious stamina.

I to the world am like a drop of water, that in the ocean seeks another drop. In some way, Shakespeare predicted that this work would not probably be his best, let alone remembered as such. Just as the drop he mentioned, this piece blurs within a larger tapestry of prodigal extraordinariness. But there’s a reason why it’s still brought to the stage, and that’s because despite its errors (no pun intended), it can trigger a good bunch of joyful emotions throughout its entire course – especially when put together in such an enchanting manner. After all, it only takes talent to clean up the mess made by another talent.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Comedy of Errors plays at London’s Shakespeare’s Globe until 29 July. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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