Brighton Fringe 2012
"Long-lost twins, desert islands and remarkably similar servants all combine to play havoc in this new adaption by Elizabeth Freestone (RSC, Globe) exclusively for Ono." A shortened version of the Bard’s classic.
The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare’s earliest plays. It is his shortest play and probably one of his most farcical. A lot of the humour derives from slapstick routines and a plot of mistaken identity.
The lights come on five people in deckchairs reading newspapers. This is a Shakespearian comedy of errors set on a beach! Could it be Brighton ?
What then unravels is an hour of physically tightly realised theatre with a young cast delivering the tale with fast paced skill and commitment. The style is front on and very direct, sometimes even panto in feel.
To step up to professional standard the performers need to surrender more to their characters and to enter even more into the physicality of the piece. As an ensemble the physical choreography is realised well. The acting is fairly good and they hold the Shakespeare with deftness. Verbal interplay is fluent and rarely stumbles.
I liked the paper cut outs. It’s a neat way to deliver story, supported well by the audio background. In fact there’s plenty of creativity in the setting, staging of realisation by Ono.
Visually it is well designed and there areca lot of enjoyable comedy momrnts. The chase scene was a real highlight – it is a fine bit of comedy.
It’s a strong youth production and the cast are very focused, holding their own in a tightly stage managed production. The comedy is timed so well with some enjoyable physical set pieces. So the next challenge is to take the text up one more notch and take it right down into the toes.
So a list of the strengths…
– The impressive and well focused energy
– The group and pair physical work in creating engaging dialogue
– The dialogues themselves, delivered punchily and with clarity
– The stage design, quirky and colourful
– The directing, which has brought out the very best of these performers
– The ability to hold audience attention and interest
– The achievement of very accessible Shakespeare
And the weaknesses…
– Some of the voice work lacks projection and is a bit throaty
– Some of the character is a bit too caricatured
There’s a dynamism in the performance, impressive pacing and it is clear that the actors are all on top of the Bard’s verse.
Outstanding Shakespeare isn’t of course just about staging and delivery. It is about interpretation, subtlety and silence. The production lacks the subtlety and power of silence and pausing. Too much has been crammed into 50 minutes.
If it is to be under an hour then it needs even further editing which space then created for better variation in pace and tempo, done well placed silence will enrich and deepen this version.
That said the young cast are full of virtues as performers and this is a comedy of errors that comes across impressively well. They’ve hit professional standrard overall, and I’ve seen a lot worse from funded touring companies.