Review: The Comedy of Errors

June 13, 2012
  • Rating: ★★★☆☆
The Camden Roundhouse
Chalk Farm Rd
0844 482 8008

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of The Comedy of Errors  at Camden’s Roundhouse is nothing if not ambitious.

The seedy markets of Shakespeare’s Ephesus become a rundown dockland reminiscent of the Baltimore Docks from the second season of The Wire. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse (two sets of twins, separated at birth from their respective Ephesus-based siblings) arrive in a crate as illegal immigrants. Prostitutes and hawkers selling knock-off Louis Vuitton handbags roam the docks, always on the lookout for the sinister armed security forces.

Merchants become modern-day wide-boys, clad in leisurewear, camel-skin jackets and shiny polyester suits. The king is a Glaswegian mobster who rules the underworld with an iron fist: the opening scene sees his security goons half drowning a hapless Egeon in an aquarium.

The Comedy of Errors is hardly a subtle play but director Amir Nizar Zuabi ramps up the camp and slapstick. Crates, actors and entire houses are delivered to the stage on a giant cargo winch; dock workers and police become marching bands playing live music; characters are flown overhead, while others are plunged into the giant aquariums at the edge of the stage.

At times the production skates a little close to pantomime and the high-camp of the Dromio twins can get a bit grating, especially in a scene in which Nell (who never appears on stage in the original text), attempts to squire one of them with a marrow.

At least it never gets dull – the production bulldozes through the text at breakneck speed. It’s not a classic but you won’t forget it in a hurry either.

First published in City A.M.