Shakespeare's Globe has already comprehensively reinvented the classical theatrical landscape by returning Shakespeare to the site and environment where his plays were originally premiered, and offering a programme of new plays alongside them. Now it plays hard and fast with the seasons, too, extending the summer right through to mid-October and premiering a brand-new production of one of Shakespeare's most riotously funny comedies The Comedy of Errors as a late summer treat.
And what a cocktail of pure pleasure it turns out to be. There's something about comedy at the Globe that's infectious to begin with; the audience, fronted by the groundlings standing in the yard, are always up for a good laugh. And director Blanche McIntyre, making her Globe directing debut, is intent on providing laughter in spades, before the play even begins with a wonderfully staged pre-show that involves a cast member trying to deal with some recalcitrant laundry hanging from the stage roof. (It has a superb pay-off later in the action).
Then, lots and lots of funny things happen, not on the way to the forum, but on the way to Ephesus, where a pair of identical twins — separated in a shipwreck — haveave turned up, unbeknownst to each other, with their respective servants, who also happen to be twins. The extended jokes on their mistaken identities are gloriously sustained here, not least because we, too, have trouble telling them apart: in a brilliant stroke of casting genius, the pairings of Simon Harrison and Matthew Needham (as the Antipholus twins) and Jamie Wilkes and Brodie Ross (as the Dromio's) genuinely do look alike.
But McIntyre, abetted by fight director Kevin McCurdy and choreographer Georgina Lamb, also makes this a genuinely physical show, complete — I kid you not — with a tussle between a man and an octopus. It is madcap to be suure; but the energy is so relentless that you have to surrender. As does the set, which James Cotterill has designed to implode on cue.