31 July 2021

The Comedy of Errors (RSC) Review

Audiences are welcomed back to the Royal Shakespeare Company with their brand new outdoor theatre space, The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre and their production of The Comedy of Errors.


Before I delve into the production, I'll talk about the theatre space itself. The outdoor roofless 500 seat theatre is fantastic. Although the space is open to the elements - travelling down to Stratford-Upon-Avon from Leicester it was very heavy rain that left me rather concerned for how dry we'd be throughout the show, thankfully the rain stopped in good time - but if you're caught in a downpour their are RSC poncho's on sale for £4. 


A panoramic view of the Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre. Photo by myself.


To enter the theatre we went through the usual entrance in to the theatre buildings, walking through the shop (which is currently closed), up past the RST get in doors and on the left there are a bar and toilets and on the right a mini shop. Once out the other side of the building, near the stage door area, you head down the ramp and the theatre is in front of you, you head around to what is the back of the space to enter (with bag checks and track and trace check in).


Once inside the theatre you're greeted by a member of the RSC team who guides you to a seat in your section - the seating is unreserved. Interestingly I found after being to some big London theatres which no longer have socially distanced seating, here they leave a one seat gap between each party. Another thing that is different is being outdoors you can take your mask off once in your seat - you are asked to wear it at all other times.


The space itself is so brilliantly thought-out and brought to life. It uses the space on the near end of the Swan Gardens, making it close to the theatre buildings. The seating is comfy and offers a great view of the stage. It's all well lit and the use of microphones allow for the actors to be amplified enough to be heard. Naturally there's some outdoor noise - particularly wind at the performance I attended but none of this affected the performance. 

Jonathan Broadbent as Dromio of Syracuse and Guy Lewis as Antipholus of Syracuse. Photo by Pete Le May.

The production itself, The Comedy of Errors, which should have ran in the RST last year is brilliant. Phillip Breen's direction brings out the laughter and the joy that RSC audiences have been missing.


For those unfamiliar with the play we are in Ephesus where two sets of identical twins, Antipholus and his servant Dromio. The two sets of twins, who don't know each other happen to be in the same place. go through plenty of mishaps through mistaken identity to often riotously funny results.


It begins with Egeon, father to the Antipholus's, delivering a long speech which gives important background to the piece - it's once we get to Ephesus that the comedy and the mishaps begin. One of the real delights of this production is the physical comedy that is delivered with real skill by the company. Movement director Charlotte Broom has done a fine job that allows for the humour to play out with tremendous results.


Guy Lewis is tremendous as Antipholus of Syracuse - the one who has just arrived in town and to such he ends up with much confusion, as he is dined by his 'wife' (who is the wife of the other Antipholus), and is presented with a gold chain. The wide eyed dumbstruck performance by Lewis is wonderful. He's matched by a brilliant Jonathan Broadbent as Dromio of Syracuse, here is an actor so comfortable with humour and the role - there's a particular scene where he's on fire and runs off stage to return completely soaked 10 seconds later which brings the house down. Broadbent isn't afraid of an ad-lib too, especially as one joke didn't land which he broke the fourth wall to exclaim "it wasn't a very funny joke anyway". 


Rowan Polonski as Antipholus of Ephesus (centre) and the company of The Comedy of Errors. Photo by Pete Le May.


Rowan Polonski is also fantastically cast as Antipholus of Ephesus, he comes to the fore more in the second act as his maddening rage and confusion grows. There's a great wresting scene as Riad Richie's officer tries to hold him down to arrest him - the pair spend a good few minutes grappling and rolling around the stage before Sarah Seggari bounds in with a rugby tackle! Greg Haiste's Dromio of Ephesus is strong too, he's another actor very comfortable with the comedy and delivers great laughs.


Hedydd Dylan's Adrianna is another who really captures the rage and frustration at the crossed lines between her husband and her twin. Dylan is pregnant and this is used to great effect and adds a lovely layer of texture to the relationships, especially as she is reunited with her husband at the end of the play. Her sister, Luciana, is energetically portrayed by an excellent Avita Jay.


There's a standout turn from the duo of William Grint as Second Merchant and his bodyguard played by Dyfrig Morris - the RSC has done some fantastic work with inclusivity and diversion and this continues here with BSL incorporated into the piece. Credit to Patrick Osborne too, and his myriad of wigs, which he uses to great comic effect.


The company of The Comedy of Errors are the curtain call. Photo by Pete Le May.


The design is well thought out for the outside space, with some hilarious use of props and the space in general. Max Jones has done a good job of incorporating the outdoor space with his design that had to be re-adapted for the outdoor space. The stage though has fallen a bit foul to the weather with the top level beginning to peel away in places but this doesn't hamper in any way.


The play ends with the reunion of the characters and this metaphors the emotion and warmth that it is being reunited with the great stage work of the RSC. The production and the space welcomes back audiences with a warm and uproarious gem of a production.


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - a frantic, farcical, unmissable delight welcomes audiences back to the RSC 


The Comedy of Errors plays at the Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre until Sunday 26th September 2021. The production then tours to Nottingham, Canterbury, Bradford and ending with a run at The Barbican Theatre in London between 16th November and 31st December 2021. For tickets are further details visit https://www.rsc.org.uk/


The Company and audience at the curtain call. Photo by Pete Le May.

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