The Comedy of Errors, Studio Theatre, Salisbury

SHAKESPEARE’S ninth play, The Comedy of Errors, is a gift for a director keen to play with perception, time and identity.

Set in Ephesus, it starts in a flashback as Egeon, imprisoned and under sentence of death for breaking the immigration laws, tells of his earlier life. He was happily married when his wife Emilia gave birth to twin boys, on the same day that her waiting woman also gave birth to twin boys.  All four were brought up together until one fateful night at sea when a storm came up …  you get the picture.

Anyway, fast forward 33 years, Egeon is in Ephesus searching for his son Antipholus and his servant Dromio, who have travelled in search of their brothers, lost in the storm. Of course the other halves are in the same place, inexplicably also called Antipholus and Dromio (presumably the shipwrecked mothers – or fathers – must have been confused as to which bawling babes they had!)

Ant of Ephesus is married to Adriana. Dro of Ephesus is betrothed to a kitchen maid of vast proportion.  When these two women see Ant of Syracuse and his servant Dro, they mistake them for their own beloveds.

In the Studio production, this is further confused by the casting of women as Ant of Sy and Dro of Sy, and men as the other two twins. Add to this women cast in male roles and lots of doubling up, and sound effects designed to add to the humorous confusion.

A successful production of The Comedy of Errors depends on four very strong actors in the twinly roles, and Studio certainly has them in Rachel Fletcher (DS) and Tamsin Jackson (AS), Paul Chalmers (AE) and Kris Hamilton-Brain (DE).

There are strong performances by Lorna Matthews-Keel, George Cotterill, Renata McKinnel and Lewis Chalk’s hilarious officer. Congratulations to the actors who were also taking part in Murder in the Cathedral, just weeks ago.

In a programme note, the young director calls the audience’s attention to the fact that the first performance of the play happened shortly after plague had ravaged the land, and when inflation was at a record high.  The more it changes …   This modern, intelligent and very funny version is well worth a look. The Comedy of Errors is on until Friday.


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