Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Comedy of Errors.

To the National to see The Comedy of Errors starring Lenny Henry as Antipholus of Syracuse. It's a rip roaring production played out with enough chutzpah and sense of fun to give even the most cynical theatre goer a good night out.

Director Dominic Cooke sets the play in a composite place somewhere between the West Indies, North Africa and Mediterranean Europe. He has a Romanian band thrown in for good measure. The openning section where the Syracusean merchant Egeon lays out the back story uses the full glories of Bunny Christie's inventive set, to create a vast poetic story board. A visual trailer for what's to come.

And what's to come is very good with Henry, who won rave reviews for his Othello a couple of years ago, revelling in the comedy. He has presence, a sense of ease with the language, great timing and, of course an anarchic spirit of irreverence. It made me wonder why we don't encourage more of our stand up comedians to take the comic roles in Shakespeare. Rickie Gervais as the Porter ? Frankie Boyle as Lear's fool? Paul Merton as Touchstone? or even Tim Minchin as Feste? If it hasn't hasn't already happened I'm sure it won't be long before James Cordon is offered Bottom. It just makes sense to put audience pleasing specialists into these roles.

Elsewhere there is some marvellous support from Chris Jarman as the other Antipholus, Lucian Msamati and Daniel Poyser as the Dromios and stealing little moments, the wonderful Claudie Blakley and Michelle Terry as tottering wag-esque sisters Adriana and Luciana.

This isn't a show that reclaims or reinterprets the play for our times. In many ways Cooke's production is a classic rendering. It doesn't half leave you with a smile on your face though.

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