COMEDY OF ERRORS, Shakespeare’s Globe SE1

GUEST REVIEWER LUKE JONES FINDS AS MUCH TO KEEP AS TO THROW AWAY

Uneven, but with big laughs, confused but not entirely to fault; this production nestled itself almost perfectly between brilliance and rubbish. The text has great, solid laughs, but they are drowned by the poor farce, which only rarely grabs attention. This was a messy show. The stage was littered with the straws it was clutching at. At any one point, half the audience was laughing; the other wincing or blithely inspecting the woodwork. This was a pick-your-own comedy with just as much to keep as throw away. This Comedy of Errors had arrived via farce, stumbled over the language, was picked up by a few plucky performances and then had a bucket of bad comedy staples poured over it. It was knackered, but we laughed.

Two identical brothers are split at birth but 30 years later run the city of Ephesus amok with confusion, mistaken identity and unfortunately identical servants. 4D confusion with too many slamming doors, entrances and exits to handle. The laughs are there; why did they feel the need to add their own?

The good performances hold this production together. Hattie Ladbury gives us her best Carry On edition of Adriana, but the entire show is stolen by Brodie Ross, the servant Dromio, who serves the brother from Syracuse. He commands the audience on multiple occasions, reaping big laughs from mastering the gags available and not playing with rubber props. At points he is in such control that his pauses, glances and delivery let him ride the audience, cueing our roars and conducting our silent concentration. His was a great performance; the funniest I have seen at the Globe. Jamie Wilkes is excellent but his scenes with Simon Harrison (the brother from Ephesus) are ridiculous slapstick. The fighting is dull. The poorly executed highs (e.g. a squid being thrown and then a struggle to ‘accidentally’ have it latch onto his face) had as many eyes rolling as mouths laughing.

The two brothers, Matthew Needham and Simon Harrison, were thoroughly acceptable but with little variance in their expression of ‘huh?’. They were confused, constantly, but a little dull, grabbing fish to slap people to get a handful of laughs when they needed it most. Their range was trills in the voice and looks to camera and nothing more. 70s sitcom at most.

The interest was primarily farce, an added feature, which was average and played as if stodgy routine. The highlight was strong Shakespeare delivered from bold, funny performances; quite the mix. It was exclusively played for laughs so when it finally tried to show its heart, cash in some drama, eke out some substance, we had no time for it, and it no enthusiasm left. Funny, but little else.

– Luke Jones

Rating: Three Mice 3 Meece Rating
Playing until 12th October
Box Office: 020 7401 9919

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