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The Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors

by William Shakespeare

Produced by Bell Shakespeare

Director Janine Watson

Photos Brett Boardman

Sydney Opera House Playhouse until September 17

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

There have been some imaginative interpretations of the works of William Shakespeare since I started in the theatre. The first one that I saw was Peter Brook’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was set on a squash court. The Ensemble Theatre put Richard III in a small London flat. An RSC version of King Lear was performed on a naked set and the actors wore plain, beige costumes. The dialogue and the acting had to do all of the heavy lifting. Earlier this year Bell Shakespeare cut Hamlet from five acts to two. The title character was played by a female and it was set in Denmark in the 1960s. Other roles were also non-gender-specific. It seems that you can slice and dice The Dane and still make it compelling.

The first time I saw The Comedy of Errors was in the late 1970s, possibly 1978, at the Belvoir Upstairs Theatre. The production was set on a carousel and included references to light sabres and other post-Shakespearean concepts. It was directed by John Bell and boasted a powerful cast.

Bell Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors,

currently playing at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse, is set in the 1970s a.k.a. “the decade that taste forgot”. It comes complete with flared pants, neon lights, loud clothing and a mirror ball.

Just to ensure that we know it’s the seventies, the show opens with The Hues Corporation's "Rock The Boat”. Did you just sing it in your head?

The Comedy of Errors is about two sets of twins who were all separated at birth and, along with the other characters, come together in the same place. The result is a farce about the confusion and misunderstandings that accompany mistaken identity.

Sydney Theatre

The production contains gender fluidity, is fast-paced in parts of the second act, and the twins look different enough for the audience not to be confused about who’s who. The cast is generally strong although the two senior actors could improve their elocution. If you decide to see this one, book seats in the front stalls. Because of the elocution, the dialogue is sometimes a challenge to clearly understand. Because this is a touring production, the set doesn’t fill the available Playhouse space. It’s designed to fit onto smaller stages, so sitting near the front would be an advantage.

It’s great that Bell Shakespeare is still staging interesting productions that William Shakespeare himself might present to contemporise his works and to continue to attract audiences.


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