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The Comedy Of Errors, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School at Circomedia

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s intricate tale of two sets of twins born at the same time, growing up in different countries and then by a stroke of fate ending up in the same city with much mayhem and mistaken identify has been given an exciting update by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. It’s showing at Circomedia, a truly original venue in a converted church which houses a circular stage (or circus ring) complete with all the trappings of high wires etc. And here’s the thing, this production is set in the 70s, complete with Afro wigs, flower power dresses, platform shoes and all the music that goes with it.

My husband brightened considerably as we went into the theatre and took our seats, an impromptu juggling act was taking place, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was playing and pretty girls were dancing. He who always sighs heavily at mention of the Bard was changing his tune!

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School tread a fine path between treating the play with serious respect whilst at the same time adding some of their own exotic twists which makes for exciting theatre. Jane Horn, as Nell the kitchen maid, padded out and with the addition of some Ken Dodd goofy teeth, does some incredibly funny pieces, and afterwards is unrecognisable when she plays Emilia the wife to Egeon. The twins Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse are characterised by both wearing Beetle wigs, and their servants, the two Dromios sport Afro wigs. This is pretty confusing but eventually we worked out who was who! Matthew Christian Reed plays Angelo, the goldsmith resplendent in a sky blue three piece suit with the fullest bell bottoms I ever saw he looks every inch the streetwise gold dealer.

Throughout the play misunderstanding and commotion are rife and thanks to the lively interpretation by the cast there is never a dull moment. Comedic timing is perfect and the interspersing of 70s music added quite another dimension. I was interested to see Matthew Romain as Antipholus of Syracuse, a very different role to that of Tommy Ed Cid the cat in Dick Whittington, which goes to show he’s versatility itself! Pearl Mackie as Adriana gave a great performance as the jealous and supposedly wronged wife and Oliver Hoare had us in stitches as both Dr Pinch, the conjurer and Solinus, the Duke. As an inspired ending the whole cast sang The Hollies’s song "he aint heavy he’s my brother" featuring some mean guitar and harmonica playing.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Shakespeare play so much and perhaps they should take the production to the West End!

Jacquie Vowles

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