Arts Review: The Comedy of Errors

Dir. Gordon Barr, Main Botanic Gardens, 25th June- 12th July (excluding Sunday and Monday nights)

If there was any doubt that the Bard in the Botanics ‘What We May Be’ season would be quietly engaging in the referendum debate, the unvoiced yet obvious transportation of the Kingdoms of Syracuse and Ephesus to England and Scotland respectively confirms it. It doesn’t propagandise the audience in either way, merely modernises the issue of two nations whose biggest similarities come in their stereotyping (look out for Nessie’s fantastic cameo) and misunderstanding of each other.

This leads to the long and humourous adventure of two strangers hiding their identity in a new land, unsure whether to be more fearful of being found out for who they are, or of the the witches who seem to already know them.

As one of Shakespeare’s most farcical comedies, The Comedy of Errors is a play sold almost entirely on the comic timing of its cast, something that the Bard in the Botanics company handles perfectly. Particular acclaim should be given to Robert Elkin, who plays Dromio of Syracuse in a way that is both endearing to the audience and incredibly funny.

The company have played up well to the stock characteristics of the play, differentiating clearly between the upper and lower class characters through accent and costuming, as well as caricaturing many of the characters, such as the mystical and musical Dr. Pinch, and the Brooklyn-hailing ‘Courtesan’. They weave music into the production, although the group numbers performed at the opening and close of acts work much better than Pinch’s Teen Angel inspired mid-performance number. Both the music and the attire work well to modernise the production whilst still staying mostly true to the Shakespearian language, well-delivered by a cast who mix perfectly the Shakespearian style, comic timing and the insertion of modern slang.

The outdoor setting as always only improves the production, with the cast occasionally running through the assembled audience and making good use of the space. However, although the stage is elevated, it could be improved upon even more if Botanics staff had slightly separate areas for those bringing stools and deck chairs and those sitting on blankets. It’s advisable to get there early if you’re to be on the ground and looking for a good view.

[Emma Ainley-Walker]

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