Adapted and Directed by Tom Latter
Pros: A dynamic and enjoyable adaptation of the classic Shakespeare comedy with some very good acting and innovative use of space. Fun costumes and an excellent theatre space.
Cons: Some rushed transitions and a bit more running around than necessary detracted from the overall experience.
Our Verdict: The 1950s Shakespeare East London adaptation is a great idea that gives this classic comedy a new life. The performance is fast and dynamic and enjoyable overall but I think it will get even better with time.
Oh Shakespeare! Greatest of all British writers, I shall relish the very essence of this first comedy of yours and recognize your developing genius in these men and women’s gestures – hey, but wait! Why are all actors dressed like that? What are they doing in pinstripe and hats? Isn’t this supposed to be the old Greece and Sicily of epical fame? What? The Docklands?
As it turns out, all was nicely explained in the lovely Ration Book distributed at the entrance, a replica of the 1950s Ministry of Food booklets with a summary of the famous play’s storyline and a background to East London and the Docks in that era. Very fitting, for The Space
is an intriguing and inviting place to be, bang in the middle of E14. Oh, and did I mention the 1950s cocktail you get with your ticket? Yum! True to the contemporary trend of using the original Shakespearean lyrics in a different age setting, Amo Theatre
puts on a wonderful adaptation and an entertaining and lively production, themed around the 1950s docklands’ backwaters.
As we took our seats at either side of the room, the traverse seating was a welcomed change from the usual stage at the front of the audience. Soon enough, we were greeted by Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse, flawlessly interpreted by Daniel Hallisey and Damian Cooper, having freshly landed in the hostile Ephesus looking for their long-lost twin brothers, unaware of the recent arrival of their father Ageon, Paul Foulds, and the local law that condemns merchants from Syracuse to enter the Aegean town. And so the storyline begins to unfold with all the expected mishaps arising from the mistaken identities and leading to all sorts of accusations from adultery, gold-chain thefts and madness to demonic possession. Admittedly, I really got to like the East London vibe to this production, and I did find the Duke’s Cockney accent, from Simon Nicholas, terribly fitting in the context.
If one thing did stand out, it was the tremendous choral effort provided by this cast. All actors were tremendously generous in their performances, always sharp and focused, despite all the running around and the tightly timed opening and closing of doors and the lot. Particularly strong performances came from the lovely Lindsey Crow playing Adriana and punchy Adam Wilson’s Dromio of Ephesus, as well as from the experienced Paul Foulds. Sherry Shihui Chen’s magical messenger provided an intriguing oriental surprise to the usual story. The costumes themselves were a joy to watch, with brace-wearing men and colour-bowed ladies running around, even though the relative bareness of the set didn’t do them enough justice.
Shakespeare’s play seems written to be a noisy, fast-paced, fun affair and yet moving with its family reunion finale. Tom Latter’s direction certainly managed to hit all the right notes and the show was very enjoyable throughout, even though at times it did feel a bit rushed and a touch too loud. Perhaps it simply needs a bit more development. My hunch is that this new company will keep getting better and deliver great productions. Meanwhile, their first effort is well worth watching for all you Shakespeare lovers and provides an excellent introduction to his most famous comedy for those who normally aren’t.
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The Comedy of Errors runs at The Space until Saturday 21st September 2013.