Home » Reviews » The Comedy of Errors, National Theatre

The Comedy of Errors, National Theatre

William Shakespeare
Directed by Dominic Cooke

Pros: A wonderful cast and a fun, modern staging. Surprisingly emotional ending. 
Cons: Not the funniest ever staging of the play, the set definitely dominates at times.
Our Verdict: Plenty of laughs and plenty of reasons to go see it beyond the appeal of seeing Lenny Henry.
Courtesy of Johan Persson for the Daily Telegraph
It has been a while since I last queued at 7.30am for National Theatre tickets and I had almost forgotten what made it worthwhile. I was glad for the reminder that this play gave me; you honestly can’t get better value for money at £12 for a seat in the front row of the Olivier stalls.
I have only read The Comedy of Errors once and all I remembered was lots of doors and lots banging on them and this performance didn’t lack for either. I have to admit, I remember the play being slightly funnier than this, but before you stop reading here, let me reassure you that I, like everyone else who’s seen it, enjoyed this production. 
The choices made in the adaptation serve to make this a most accessible Shakespeare. Cutting down it’s length is a wise decision and I think it serves the immediacy of the comedy well. Highlights include the chase scene, complete with scooter and an actual ambulance, and brilliant musical interludes by musicians doing Romanian (I think!) renditions of songs such as, Mad World and Crazy
Now firmly established as a ‘serious actor’ Lenny Henry delights audiences as Antipholus of Syracuse. However I hope that people also appreciate the equally funny and talented actors surrounding him. Both Claudia Blakley and Michelle Terry give great performances as Adriana and her sister Luciana. The facial expressions of Chris Jarman alone are brilliantly chuckle worthy, as is the comedy brought forth by the Nigerian accents put on by Henry and his wonderful Dromio, played by an endearing Lucian Msamati. The pair’s cultural superstitions made me laugh the hardest of all and it still makes me smile to remember all their clicking and flailing arms. 
Set building on the Olivier stage reaches new heights – literally – with every production I see there. Bunny Christie, who has another beautiful design for Hay Fever in the Noel Coward theatre at the moment, has pulled out all the stops for this stage. Her design is a towering structure which is quite literally spilt in two when the shipwreck is re-enacted and then, a pivot or two later, takes us into the modern and slightly seedy city of Ephesus. 
I suppose an easy criticism to make would be to say that it’s too much. Too much set and too much production, detracting from the action of the play. There may be some truth to that, however when it’s your debut in the vastness of the Olivier, as it is for Dominic Cooke, how many of us could resist the urge to go all out? Cooke allows himself to play also with the dream like qualities present in many of Shakespeare’s plays, and here turned a little nightmarish as the mistaken twins are harassed and pursued by all manner of crazies in the city. 
With this production, the disappointment I felt with In Basildon has been washed away and I am now more of Dominic Cooke fan. The ending here is surprisingly moving and almost catches you off guard as the family is reunited. Forgiving a rather dominating set, this is a delightful play that leaves you with that warm, happy feeling unique to Shakespeare’s comedies.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
The Comedy of Errors runs at the National Theatre until 1st April 2012.

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