Propeller’s Comedy of Errors @ Theatre Royal

For a performance that gave me initial trepidations, Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors went a great deal of the way in just two and a half hours to winning me over. This was largely due to the energy and vivacity of the actors that couldn’t fail to coax even the most depreciating audience member out to play. 

For those who don’t know Shakespeare’s Errors (me included until tonight), it is a high-spirited romp spinning the tale of two twin brothers, separated at an early age.   After Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio arrive in Ephesus, much confusion incurs as unbeknown to the pair, Anitpholus’ long lost twin, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio are alive and well, already living in Ephesus. In typical Shakespeare-style, the plot gives way to a fast-paced farce of mistaken identities, slapstick violence and comical seductions.  I had no trouble following the narrative due to the flamboyant acting and frantic gestures.

Although I now consider it as a strength, what initially discouraged me from fully embracing the performance was the pantomime-like style which just seemed too slapstick to be enjoyable.  The comedy sound effects, farcical facial expressions and bawdy yet unadventurous humour gave me that squint-provoking cringe effect characteristic of the classic Christmas pantomime.  But if you can swallow that, perhaps for some, even enjoy the taste, Propeller whisks you into a world of merriment, energy and laughter. And this is precisely the effect they are after; you cannot watch a horror film and then complain because it is too scary.  Similarly, you have to enter into the spirit of the show to engage in the performance.

Once I had reached this mind set, perhaps lubricated all the more quickly with a glass of red, I began to be entertained.  It was refreshing to witness the care-free uninhibited oomph with which the actors threw themselves in.  They cannot be criticised for taking themselves too seriously which also encouraged the audience to let go and giggle, nay, even guffaw. Seamlessly spouting Shakespeare onto the stage, the acting cannot be faulted. Particularly impressive was James Tucker’s (Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus) performance.  He was a genuine pleasure to watch and stepped effortlessly into the part. His acting was impeccable and induced genuine laughs, even from your humble, cringe-tainted mediator. I also enjoyed the handmade aesthetic of the music and sound effects produced onstage which also added to the light-hearted atmosphere and insincerity.   (A littler harder to stomach was the 80s cheese of ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’, Harry Potter references and such ilk.)  Frivolous and bemusing were the costumes of aviators, sombreros and football shirts and the dialogue was fast paced and impressive- so much so that Joseph Chance (Antipholus of Ephesus) earned a hearty applause after a particularly speedy monologue.

Such was the animation and verve of the performance that they transported me from initial inertia to enjoying a highly entertaining evening.  I can’t say that I have acquired a taste for farce, but if it is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.  Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors is a highly polished performance in which I took real pleasure in watching both the actors and audience (including me) enjoy themselves.

Libby Dunstan

Propeller’s Comedy of Errors runs at the Theatre Royal, on Thursday 7.30pm, Friday 7.30pm & Saturday 2pm.

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