Shakespeare at the circus

IN this anniversary year of Shakes­pea­r­ean productions, many pushing the boundaries of accepted interpretation, Dave Hollis was determined that Shaftes­bury Arts Centre shouldn’t miss out.

His production of The Comedy of Errors, on stage in Bell Street until 16th April, sets the early play in a circus ring, beautifully but incongruously opening with a Japanese song accom­panied on a mandolin, a Chin­ese joke  and a juggling fox. That fox continues into the play, as a gold merchant.

The ring-master transmogrifies into Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife and the doctor comes straight from the Circus of Horrors. It’s colourful, inventive and great fun, and the cast members throw themselves into the spirit of the thing with gusto.

The story is of two pairs of indentical twins born on the same day – pity they left that bit in, as the Antipholi (the confused and blustering Martin Williams and David Luxton) are old enough to be the fathers of the Dromios, played with huge energy and charm by Rachael Alexander and Charlie Greenwood.

These babes were separated at birth, two going with their mother, and the others with the father.  Both pairs have grown up as servant and master, ignorant of the others’ existence.

We meet them on the day they turn up in the same place at the same time, leading to all sorts of mistaken identity and apparently broken promises.

It was easy to believe that Adriana (Beth Stewart) and Luciana (Julia Kuntze) were sisters, and their punkily modern performances contrasted with the more traditional Solinus of Robert Ralph and Aegeon of Jerome Swan (what a joy it is to hear that man speak Shakespeare!)

The audience on Friday obviously enjoyed the whole experience, with its tumbling, mock fighting and juggling, and it certainly brought a new dimension to this slight play, injecting moments of real pathos into the clownery.



No images were made available of this colourful and inventive production

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