The Comedy of Errors is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I knew nothing about before seeing this show. It was, perhaps, a risky choice for the Fresher’s Play this year: much as Shakespeare is what often comes to mind when thinking about theatre, it can be dense and off-putting for many actors, especially those in their first performance at university. It can also have the potential to deter an audience in its intricate language and the stigma that comes with watching very old plays. However, these were not issues that any of the team involved in last night’s performance should worry about, as I can safely say it put any fears I had to rest.
Credit to directors Sam Dobson, Tom Searle and Aoife Thomas for making this one of the most visually imaginative productions I have seen performed at this university. The problem of people not being able to understand Shakespearean dialogue was excellently circumvented through some incredibly expressive physical acting and beautifully detailed sets. A set piece near the beginning where a story being told by Aegeon (Alex Baker) was acted out by the rest of the cast was stunning, combining humour and pathos and even featuring a re-enactment of a storm.
The acting itself was strong across the board, especially considering the inexperienced nature of much of the cast. There were some stumbles and the occasional garbled delivery, but this was partly down to first night nerves, and I’m confident that the cast will only continue to develop in their skills as their theatre career progresses. Sarah Divall made for an endearingly cold and cynical Adriana, while Chris Walker was a great comedic character, all flailing limbs and gestures. Jed Marshall and Chris Wickham both played a fine Antipholus, making sure to copy some of each other’s mannerisms whilst also making each part their own. The standouts, however, were Catherine Darcy and Ellie Blacklock as the two Dromios. Both actresses were astonishingly energetic and dynamic, never losing energy through the entire performance, and both proved themselves to be very talented comediennes. A few technical errors barely registered in quite a tech-heavy show, featuring a wide variety of music and even some screened adverts, including one for a puntastic cruise (whoever came up with The Taming of the Crew, I salute you).
In truth, there is very little fault I can find with The Comedy of Errors. A great cast of actors, incredibly imaginative, undeniably funny: get to see it while you still can. And I promise, you don’t need to be able to understand Shakespeare.
The Comedy of Errors is being performed in The Annex Theatre until Saturday 8th December. Tickets are £6 for students and £5 with a PA card.