Shakespeare-athon: @propellertheatr Comedy of Errors and why I now like Shakespeare's comedies
If nothing else, this will be the year that marks a U-turn in my view of Shakespeare's comedies - they can actually be funny, consistently funny and not just amusing.
Before odd scenes and performances would make me laugh, Oliver Chris's Bottom (ahem) and Derek Jacobi's Malvolio for example. But, hot on the heals of the thoroughly entertaining Tennant/Tate Much Ado About Nothing comes the Propeller Theatre's Comedy of Errors at Hampstead.
I'd already seen their excellent Richard III which had the sort of imagination and contemporary interpretation that hinted at good things for Comedy. And I wasn't disappointed, I mean how can you top a man walking across stage with a lit sparkler clenched between his naked buttocks?
But I get slightly ahead of myself. Like in RIII, the cast are on the stage as the auditorium fills, this time creating a wholly different atmosphere dressed in sombrero's, shades and football T's and playing Spanish music. There is a village-people style cop, all leather trousers, shades and moustache helping greet people with a 'buenos noches'.
And then they begin. The big plus point of A Comedy of Errors is that there is no laboured set up, it is done in a short opening scene and off we go at break-neck speed. Two sets of twins separated as children, mistaken identity and hilarious consequences is all you really need to know.
Propeller's all male cast comes into its own adding 'men in drag' to the humour. It is brilliantly executed by Robert Hands as the S&M loving wife of one of the Antipholous twins, David Newman as her sister Luciana, played mousey and coy but with a penchant for karate and Kelsey Brookfield as the ample-bosomed Courtesan.
There are no wheelie-bins referenced in Shakespeare's text, neither does a character arrive in make-believe cars or stick sparklers up their bum, it is all in the brilliant minds of Propeller. And that's why it works. This is Shakespeare comedy delivered in the spirit of a Spanish fiesta: gaudy, loud, riotous and in your face and I can't help thinking the man himself would heartily approve.
The rapid delivery often swallows up lines but it doesn't matter, this is not so much about the verbal but the physical.
Richard III made me a fan of Propeller, Comedy turned me into a stalker. Comedy of Errors is getting five fabulous stars from me and I can't wait to see what they do next - that'll be A Winter's Tale and Henry V. If they can make something decent out of the former then they really will prove their genius.
Oh and if you are going to see it (be quick), make sure to head to the bar for the interval for a bit of extra entertainment.
And thus concludes my Shakespeare-athon, three plays in just over 24-hours in two different towns. All good in their own right but definitely saved the best until last. Won't be seeing any more Shakespeare now until...er... Wednesday when I'm going to see Richard III again. Well it was so good and Richard Clothier is worth the ticket price alone.
Same cast as RIII so there is already Kelsey Brookfield as detailed at the bottom of that review but I promised another: Richard Frame was in London Assurance which also featured Nick Sampson who was in the origial cast of His Dark Materials, like Mr W.