The Comedy of Errors is perfect for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity benefits from being set in London’s most charming venue. It is surprising, then, that this is the first time in 14 years the play has been performed here. Philip Franks’ production is well worth the wait.
Ephesus is transformed into glamorous 1940s Casablanca. As the merchant Egeon roams the town under threat of death, his twin sons and their servants (separated at birth as Shakespearean twins often are) cause havoc as their lives overlap. Daniel Weyman and Daniel Llewelyn-Williams play the twins as matinee idols and do it swooningly well. Joseph Kloska and Josh Cohen as their servants add some delightful comic touches.
During their years of separation the twin living in Ephesus has married. His wife Adriana (Jo Herbert) shows outrage at her husband’s (actually his twin’s) odd behaviour but charms us with her obvious affection for him. After the interval, things really take off as she heads a posse in a slapstick chase to capture him, thinking he has gone mad.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Shakespearean comedy can drag a little, and over familiarity with the plot can lead to frustration with characters unable to work out that something is glaringly amiss. Philip Franks keeps the pace fast to avoid the worst of this and has plenty of engaging digressions. With the role of the Courtesan adapted into a nightclub hostess we get some great music – any excuse to hear the fantastic Anna-Jane Casey sing is a good idea. She adds a touch of eccentricity that embodies this colourful, pleasing production and crowns a fine night out.
Until 31 July 2010
Photo by Manuel Harlan
Written 30 June 2010 for The London Magazine