REVIEW: Theatre Group's The Comedy of Errors

Arriving for SUSU Theatre Group’s Freshers’ Play The Comedy of Errors, I didn’t really know what to expect. On the one hand, the production had been billed as “Shakespeare’s most […]


Arriving for SUSU Theatre Group’s Freshers’ Play The Comedy of Errors, I didn’t really know what to expect. On the one hand, the production had been billed as “Shakespeare’s most raucous comedy” and, on the other, it was still a Shakespeare, not the average theatre-goer’s choice of playwright for a rollicking show, and certainly a monumental challenge for newcomers to the society.

Concerns were soon allayed by an atmospheric opening set representing the marketplace of the metropolis of Ephesus, which featured pun-tastic posters (deviser of “The Taming of the Crew”, take a bow!) and engaging audience interaction in various forms, from dodgy DVD sales pitches to fruit flogging.

Antipholus (Jed Marshall) and Dromio (Ellie Blacklock) of Syracuse in Ephesus. Credit: Joe Hart

It was testament to the strength of the characterisation on display that improvisation was largely convincing. This trait was sustained throughout the show as ever greater use was made of its well-cast ensemble performers and assorted array of props (without wishing to give too much away, watch out for the vegetables!) to sustain a bustling atmosphere in the city and keep events feeling dynamic and fresh.

The show opened with a surprising explosion of original multimedia which, although at times linguistically inconsistent with Shakespeare’s own work, immediately captured attention. This was upheld by the quite brilliantly technically produced, directed and delivered story-telling of Aegeon (Alex Baker), conveying the premise of the plot – the separation of two sets of identical twins at birth, their unknowing reunion in Ephesus, and ensuing mayhem – through a spectacular storm sequence, for which cast, production team and stage crew deserve credit alike.

It demonstrated the qualities of The Comedy of Errors from the offset: accessible, creative, immersive and all-out hilarious.

To tackle the immediate obstacle of Shakespeare’s occasionally dizzying and dense language, emphasis was placed on comedic physicality, and it was here where a star turn was delivered by Dromio of Syracuse (Ellie Blacklock), whose timing, exaggeration and demeanour brought her lines to life, and she had the audience in stitches with every expression, gesture and action.

Beatrice (Caitlin Meredith) scolds Angelo (Chris Walker) and Antipholus of Ephesus (Chris Wickham). Credit: Joe Hart

Mention should also be made of the performances of fiery Adriana (Sarah Divall) and her bubbly sister Luciana (Sally White), the hapless yet vibrant goldsmith Angelo (Chris Walker), and the stage-stealing Antipholus twins (a no-holds-barred Jed Marshall and a commanding Chris Wickham), but in truth this was a team effort from the opening, and every cast member made their presence felt on stage appropriately.

As is always the case with amateur dramatics, the show was not without its hiccups; the occasional prop mishap, technical error and loss of diction, particularly as the pace of the show heightened in the second half, still arose. But the quality of acting on display more than compensated for any minor distractions, and as events built to a hectic (although perhaps slightly befuddling) climax, all inhibitions had gone out the window, leading to Theatre Group’s first-ever on-stage cry of “to Jesters’!” ; everybody in the Annex was enjoying themselves.

So Shakespeare-phobes, fret no longer: you’ll have a hysterical time. A stupendous start to Theatre Group’s freshers’ careers.

Theatre Group’s The Comedy of Errors is running daily in the Annex Theatre at 7:30pm until Saturday 8th of December. Tickets are £8 for adults, £6 for students and £5 for Performing Arts Card holders, and are available from boxoffice.susu.org, on the door, or can be reserved by emailing [email protected]