'The Comedy of Errors' review — RSC offers top-notch Bard comedy
The Comedy of Errors is kind of like a Shakespearean comedy highlight reel. The play has everything you want from the Bard: Twins? Check. Mistaken identities? Check. A separated family? Check. So, spoiler alert, you’re bound to get a night full of pratfalls, romance, and teary reunions? It’s ideal for both Bard novice and experts alike.
I took a friend to the Royal Shakespeare Company production, playing at the Barbican, who had never seen a Shakespeare play onstage beyond studying his works in school. She found the show engaging, funny, and easy-to-follow, not a small order for a play in iambic pentameter. So it’s a large credit to the RSC that the company has created such a palatable and enjoyable evening of Shakespearean comedy.
The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s earlier works, and for the unfamiliar, the story here follows two sets of identical twins, separated at a young age by a terrible storm. Unbeknownst to anyone, both sets of twins live in Ephesus now, and a series of hijinks ensue. But the play isn’t all laughs; there is plenty of tragedy and romance as well, and pieces of it seem to echo another of the twin-based comedy Twelfth Night, also with separated twins and a storm.
The RSC production has a bit of a modern spin, and the addition of an a capella chorus and beatboxers adds a new dimension to the transitions between scenes that I’d never experienced before. The cast here is all top-notch, with some uncanny casting of the twins. I had a hard time believing these actors were not, in fact, even related.
Overall, it’s a solid night of Shakespearean comedy, featuring a solid cast of Shakespeare pros, with some inventive interludes and interpretations. I did feel like I was missing a little “wow” factor and the running time is long, but I would recommend the show to anyone seeking an entertaining night of theatre, whether they know Shakespeare or not.
Photo credit: The Comedy of Errors (Photo courtesy of Royal Shakespeare Company)