THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 15th June, 2021
It is nothing short of wonderful to be back in a theatre and watching the country’s funniest theatre company, Oddsocks, back on stage, doing what they do so brilliantly, after an enforced hiatus. Every time the company revisits a Shakespeare play they have toured once or twice before, they do something new with it, thereby keeping their work fresh and funny. This new production of Errors benefits from a host of folk songs and sea shanties, where previous versions have been resplendent with pop songs. Here the a capella singing lends atmosphere, and later, when accompanied by instruments, it’s still rousing stuff, keeping the energy levels high during transitions. I suspect this shift in musical style, using tunes in the public domain, is a cost-cutting exercise in these straitened times, but whether it is or it isn’t, it works extremely well.
Director/adaptor Andy Barrow has cast his Mrs in a lead role. Producer Elli Mackenzie appears as Antiphoni of Ephesus (and of course her identical twin from Syracuse) thereby cementing her position in my view that she is the funniest woman in the land. She and Barrow (as the hapless servants Dromio) form an exquisite double act. It’s a rare treat to see them performing together. There’s an abundance of physical comedy in this show, including a sequence with a large trunk that reminds me of Laurel & Hardy’s The Music Box, and the slapstick violence between the pair is like two stooges in search of a third.
Oddsocks veteran, the charming Joseph Maudsley makes a welcome return, appearing as Adrian (husband to Antiphoni – the gender swap doesn’t get in the way of the machinations of Shakespeare’s farcical plot). I was expecting a Rocky moment with Antiphoni calling her hubby’s name – but then, what do I know? Maudsley has an easy-going, immediately likeable stage presence. As do new recruits Harrie Dobby and Jack Herauville who fit right in with the company’s madcap style, delivering a range of supporting roles.
Comic business is Oddsocks’s business, hearkening back to commedia dell’arte; it’s the kind of thing that has to be seen live, for the timing, the daftness, and the sheer skill required to pull it off. And it’s all reasonably faithful to Shakespeare’s text, honed into two-hours traffic on the stage, with the occasional topical reference thrown in for good measure. The good news is this is the start of their summer tour. They will surely be visiting an indoor or outdoor venue near you soon. It would be an error to miss them!
Publicity image. You can check out TOUR DATES HERE.