Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Comedy of Errors - review

Written by: Dombo (@DomOJFryer)

Where's Dom Gone?
The National – I got let out!
Was Dom Fond?

It's true - Dombo was let out on day release. This week, I rocked up to the National Theatre, to watch one of Shakespeare's early classics – The Comedy of Errors.
One problem which I have sometimes come across when encountering Shakespeare recently, is that it seems a lot of the time the director can fail to understand the meanings behind the text. With this particular play, sometimes the comedy fails to come across, and the play can fall flat on it's face. It would remain to be seen if this production, modernised to be set in a busy London suburb, would lose sight of Shakespeare's poignant messages about class values in society, in favour of gaining a cheap laugh. They say laughter to humans is infectious; much like a virus is to a Windows PC – the question is, do Dominic Cooke, Lenny Henry, et al have the correct binary code to spread the humour?

Awful metaphors aside, the play itself had a wealth of acting talent on show. Henry coped with the challenge of portraying Antipholus of Syracuse very well, and bought his own physical comedy to the performance, much to the delight of the audience; myself and the sixty-year old theatre owner next to me were laughing most of the way through (he didn't catch any of my hints and set me up with any contacts, but that's a story for another time). I do, however, have one criticism of the casting; Chris Jarman, Lenny Henry's twin in the performance, looked about as similar to Henry as Hugh Jackman does to a frog. And it was very noticeable.

At times the performance seemed a bit like a circus in mating season, with the entirety of the Olivier's resources being put to use in almost every second of the performance; but this only added to the chaotic and comedic value of the show. Also, if you're a fan of contemporary and classic pop hits translated into Romanian and drafted in a play over scene changes (blimey, who isn't?), then this is the play for you!* This production hits home towards the close, when Pamela Nomvette brings the characters together in a final act of reunion, a touching and quiet moment in an otherwise energetic and frenzied performance. The two Dromios were hilarious throughout, and unlike their masters, looked almost identical even from the stalls. This show is highly recommendable for anyone who has lost their faith in Shakespeare. The message, for me at least, is clear; The Bard is back.

*This should go on their poster.

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