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Theatre Review: RSC The Comedy of Errors

23 October 21 words: Dom Henry

A major case of mistaken identity in this gag packed farce

As we ease ourselves back into the oh so welcome pleasure of normal theatre service, the RSC have arrived just in time with an uplifting blast of joyous comedy.

It's an outrageous premise, a long suffering father inadvertantly ends up on death row while searching for one of his missing identical twin sons, slave companion and wife, tragically separated as babes in a shipwreck. Same names, same looks, now unwittingly in the same town by chance in the same duchy, unaware their shared dad awaits execution the next morn. The 400 year old playright putting reality TV in its place right there. Cue preposterous doppleganger antics.

This take of The Comedy of Errors from Philip Breen works hard to milk every last drop of humour from the text in a torrent of slapstick, visual gags and verbal repartee. Gradually ratcheting up the mistaken identity mayhem in the warm coastal airs of Max Jone's 80s infused city state, a cosmopolitan melting pot of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African styles.

Home turf husband and wife duo Antipholus of Ephesus (Dyffrig Morris) and his big hair rocking wife Adrianna (Heddyd Dylan) make the most of the juciest doppledanger disrupted roles. Increasingly incredulous shoulder pad angst from a pregnant Adrianna, versus towering disbelief from Antipholus on his sweaty path to meltdown.

All manner of visual gags are squeezed in; from a fab little Fawlty Towers skit featuring a Manuel-esque Piazza waiter, to hand sanitiser explosions, and Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse's John Lewis knife set vs knuckle duster stand off with the wonderfully villanous and foppish deaf 2nd Merchant (William Grint). Not to mention the formidable Grace Jones inspired presence of Antipholus of Ephesus' "lady-friend" (Toyin Aydenun-Alase).

The pacey comedy outrage is tempered by more thoughtful undertones. The whole show is timed against the ticking clock of a brutal capital punishment. Nor can we forget that the two put upon Dromio twins were sold into slavery as babies to grow up as manservants. Antipholus of Ephesus may have been up to no good with a courtesan behind his wife's back and the social circles we find ourselves whirling through are dripping with ostentation and consumption. Nevertheless the touches never drag the witty tone down too far, just reign them in from time to time for a reflective nod.

The score is really worth a mention, a choral trio are embedded in the ensemble, and weave harmonies, acapellas and even beat boxing through transitions and scenes. Unusual but remarkably effective, especially with some of the African rhythms which crop up.

This is a great show, as you would expect from the RSC, teasing some welcome smiles and laughter from under the masks of the Theatre Royal audience.

The Comedy of Errors plays until Sunday 24 October 2021 at Nottingham's Theatre Royal.

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