Edinburgh Fringe 2019
High energy, cleverly edited performance of one of Shakespeare’s most complex and convoluted stories.
The likelihood of needing sun cream for an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play in August in Edinburgh in late August is about as high as England scrambling a victory from the jaws of defeat in an Ashes Test Match, but the Gods of probability delivered this most unlikely of combinations today as Lutton Place found itself bathed in bucolic late afternoon sunshine for C Theatre’s 2019 outdoor offering of The Comedy of Errors. And with so many taking advantage of the splendid weather, getting the audience arranged around the gardens was a comedy of errors in itself.
Explaining the plot of this one would take about as long as one of Wagner’s interminable operas so, let’s just say that you’ve got the usual Shakespeare comedic mix of mistaken identity, cross dressing, cross casting, clever people, silly people, funny people, angry people, a song or two and a wedding at the end.
If you’re tackling an open-air production in the middle of a busy city, make sure that your actors have big and powerful voices and the C Theatre octet certainly belted everything out in a loud and clear fashion, dealing with a broad range of distractions along the way including sirens, motor bikes, helicopters, planes, extraneous neighbourhood noises off and a couple of unscheduled but nevertheless amusing appearances by a stray toddler.
Hats off to our enthusiastic cast, then, for this engaging production. Frequent costume changes and an awful lot of running around meant that just eight of them covered pretty much the full complement of characters that appear in the full blown, unedited version.
The classic trick of having one actor play both Antipholus of Syracuse and Ephesus worked well, with the effervescent Tom Huxley Golden winning the hearts of the appreciative audience with a well-constructed performance, differing hats and accents making sure we all knew just who he was supposed to be at any one particular moment. Our two Dromios were alike in appearance and equally well executed by Rachel Graham and Charlotte Tayler. And Caitlin O’Donnell had just the right degree of indignation and bemusement as Adriana, trying to work out just why her “husband” was behaving so badly towards her.
This is one of Shakespeare’s most complex and convoluted stories so it would be very easy to lose the audience. There’s no danger of that happening here, however, with a very skilfully edited script combined with some clever signposting at key moments by the universally excellent troupe of players ensuring that we all stayed engaged and knew what was going on. And some wonderfully chaotic Keystone Cops chase scenes around the shrubbery broke the fourth wall sufficiently often to make us all feel a part of the performance even if it did result in a clutch of rather breathless actors when they arrived back on stage. Eventually.
The Fringe is full of Shakespeare adaptations, some of them on the wackier side of crazy. But for those of you who like your Shakespeare relatively pure and unadulterated, then this is for you. No messing about, no fancy gimmicks. Just a bit of clever cutting and a lot of energetic acting. Thoroughly recommended.