The Comedy of Errors at Town Hall Galway
October 24, 2013
Pop songs, clapalongs and Mariachi bands. Is that what you expect to see when you pay for the Bard? Because that’s what you get with Propeller’s batsh*t bananas production of the Comedy of Errors. Teamed with modern dress, a graffitid set plus a ‘where the hell did that come from’ dance sequence the all male company pay no heed to subtlety as they weave comedic gold from one of William Shakespeare’s earliest plays. Embracing a cartoon approach to violence, a vocal delivery that was both high speed and high pitch and a dazzling aesthetic that never misses its mark, the continual pummeling of the funny bone outshines the darker and more human aspects of the script. But the technical proficiency of this excellent company, who commit whole-heartedly to this high farce approach, compensates for the lack of any real feeling beneath.
Whirling around two cases of mistaken identity the Comedy of Errors is the story of one half of two sets of twins, Antipholous and Dromio of Syracuse, who arrive in the ancient Greek shipping town of Ephesus, to reunite their set. A master and a slave, they quickly wreak havoc on the trading town, imagined here as a Streets of Rage aping, nu raved tinged package holiday location, when the wives, sister in law and townsfolk confuse them with their kin. Failing to tell each other apart from their Ephesusian counterparts madness ensues when the mistaken identities end in multiple arrests, an attempted exorcism, assumed theft and near adultery.
The multiple beatings that the cast subject each other to are staged with relish, using mace, numb chucks, karate chops and in one case a baton up the bum amongst many other things to numb us to the repetitive violence. The ad libing and deliberate ham acting, acknowledged with a cheeky nod to the stalls, further desenstises us to the casual cruelty and desperate behavior of the characters so that they become the theatrical equivalent of the Animaniacs, who we love to see suffer and care little about.
The playing is tighter across the board than anything on the Irish stage of late and special mention must be given to the cocks in frocks, which you never perceive as such. Once you get over their garish attire you go with their sex switched flow, particularly the crazy, crone Luciana, who walks away with the scenery with her iron gut and wing tipped specs.
It was pure pantomime with an almost “he’s behind you” vibe coursing through the stalls and, on the last matinee performed at the Galway Arts Festival, theirs was the most gob smacking display of corpsing which was thrilling exploited during a speech about the ample proportions of a kitchen wench.
The cast were ticked pink by their own ingenuity and deservedly so. This is the most alive the Bard has seemed since Siren’s terrific Titus six years ago. The tour concludes in the coming weeks with dates in Denmark and Verona. If you like your theater it is well worth the price of a flight