The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s Globe

Editor’s Rating
Rating

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, and also one of his best. This new production at Shakespeare’s Globe is a finely crafted, raucous interpretation that creates one of the funniest theatrical evenings for some time.

Slapstick is a key element of Blanche McIntyre’s direction, starting even before curtain up as Dromio of Ephesus (Jamie Wilkes) evokes the spirits of Keaton and Wisdom with a step-ladder based silent routine. The evening is peppered with impressively choreographed fight sequences that mix thrills and humour in equal measure.

The tale of two pairs of estranged identical twins relies not upon the battles, good as they are, but on pace, scripting and delivery from the four principals. It is here where The Comedy of Errors really begins to fly. Wilkes and his Syracusian counterpart, Brodie Ross, excel as the put-upon servants whose attempts to do what they are told are perpetually foiled by the frequent cases of mistaken identity. As the Antipholus brothers, Simon Harrison and Matthew Needham are just as equally matched. The quartet are each discrete individuals, but the constant mistaking of one brother is utterly believable – one of the hardest tasks in making this play work, but due to good casting, high quality performances and designer James Cotterrill’s sumptuous costumes, it appears to be truly effortless.

The supporting cast of Ephesians help propel the story forwards at every turn. The women vying for the attentions of the Antipholus brothers – Hattie Ladbury’s Adriana, Becci Gemmell as her sister Luciana, and Emma Jerrold threatening to steal the show as a platform-heeled courtesan – bring ferocity, charm and vitaility to characters which can so easily be ciphers. Paul Brendan’s jeweller is a master of comic timing, while Andy Apollo elevates his otherwise straight roles as the town’s law enforcement officials with a performance as outlandishly absurd as his costume.

With any production of The Comedy of Errors, the most difficult passages are often the framing serious elements, as the Syracusian duke Egeon (James Laurenson) is threatened with death. That is the same here, not helped by a delivery by Laurenson that lacks the zip and warmth so prevalent elsewhere.

But there is so much excellence on display thoughout the evening that the occasional misjudged performance can easily be overlooked. As frenetic, farcical slapstick comedies go, the Globe has come up with a superb production that succeeds on every level.

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s Globe5Scott Matthewman2014-09-06 21:15:46This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, and also one of his best…

A round-up of reviews

While this blog has been quiet for a few weeks, I’ve been writing elsewhere. Below is a collection of reviews I’ve been writing – the most recent at the top.

Relative Values, Harold Pinter Theatre

17 April, The Public Reviews:

…It is the satire of social class and obsession with Hollywood celebrity that helps Relative Values seem relevant today. It’s such a pity, then, that director Trevor Nunn chooses to open every new scene with newsreel footage from 1951, as if to force the play into some status as a historical piece… [it] feels like some bizarre form of theatrical taxidermy, attempting to cement the play into a form which does it an injustice.

ShellShock, Waterloo East Theatre

11 April, The Public Reviews:

What is perhaps most annoying about ShellShock is that one can see the germ of a good idea being strangled by ham-fisted writing and direction. It cannot seem to decide if it is a gruelling family drama, or a children’s musical…

The Beautiful Game, Union Theatre

9 April, Musical Theatre Review:

Where The Beautiful Game works is in those moments where it tries less hard to be a political statement, and more to expose the conflicting emotions felt by a group of young people struggling to grow up in an inner city riven with violence and prejudice. And it is those moments where the intimacy of a fringe space, the performance of the young cast and some spirited direction and choreography works most effectively.

Damn Yankees, Brockley Jack Studio

April 7, Musical Theatre Review:

…It is not the Devil who gets the best tunes, but his subordinate, the sultry temptress Lola (Charlotte Donald), who does her best to get Joe to succumb to her charms while unwittingly falling for his. Her two Latin tempo numbers, ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ and ‘Who’s Got the Pain’… are the highlights of the show’s musical score

Another Country, Trafalgar Studios

5 April, The Public Reviews:

It feels remarkable that this play is over thirty years old… In a year which has seen Russia clamp down on gay rights while England and Wales celebrates same-sex marriage, while government clamps down on benefits cheats but turns a blind eye to a cabinet member cheat her expenses, Another Country feels utterly contemporary, wholly relevant – and completely unmissable.

Stephen Rahman-Hughes in cabaret, London Hippodrome

March 31, Musical Theatre Review:

The audience at the Hippodrome’s Matcham Rooms was not quite as packed for Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ cabaret gig on Saturday night as it has been for other, perhaps better known, faces from the world of musical theatre. But for anybody who stayed away, it was their loss, for they missed a soulful, inspirational, unpretentious performance.

Thérèse Raquin, Finborough Theatre

March 21, Musical Theatre Review:

This is not a show that contains stand-out solo numbers, preferring instead ensemble recitative, repetition upon repetition building up tension. The result is a show that sounds musically different from much of today’s musical theatre – but at the risk of understanding characters’ internal struggles that much less.

Review: Once, Phoenix Theatre

Editor’s Rating
Rating

In general, the vogue for adapting films into stage musicals tends to be looked down upon in musical theatre circles. Ghost, Top Hat, Legally Blonde, Singin’ in the Rain, The Bodyguard, Footloose, Dirty Dancing… the list seems to get ever longer.

The quality of such adaptations varies wildly – and generally, the closer the stage version attempts to remain to the original, the less creative and enjoyable the result for the audience.

Once is the latest movie to make the transition to the stage. One advantage it has is that the film itself is comparatively little-known, despite the song Falling Slowly winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song. But mostly, its staging ignores that origin, and instead treats itself as a standalone piece of art. The result is a sublime evening of warm humour, great songs and heartbreakingly beautiful romance.

Continue reading Review: Once, Phoenix Theatre

Review: Once, Phoenix Theatre5Scott Matthewman2013-05-23 14:03:58In general, the vogue for adapting films into stage musicals tends to be looked down upon in musical theatre circles. Ghost, Top Hat, Legally Blonde, …

Review: Kerry Ellis in Concert, London Palladium

Sunday saw Kerry Ellis take to the stage at the London Palladium for a one-off concert – which I reviewed for Musical Theatre Review. Despite the 500-word count, I still had to leave out reference to her guests Rory Taylor and Alex Gaumond, and the support act Woman (or “Woman – the band”, as they insist on calling themselves).

Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Back in September 2010, I reviewed Yes Prime Minister at the Gielgud Theatre, where I wrote:

The result is a farce that works well throughout. The political satire may aim for obvious targets – European projects derailed by national self-interests, the BBC’s uneasy relationship with government, general confusion on all sides about climate change – but it pretty much nails them every time…

…At times, the pace does flag a bit, particularly in the second act. But the bigger problem, post-interval, is one of casting structure. Sir Humphrey is absent for most of Act Two, which unbalances the dynamic and forces Bernard to assume more of the cunning and guile of his mentor than his character should possess.

All that remains true, now that the production has returned to the West End after a UK tour. In its new home of Trafalgar Studios, sitting appropriately at the top of Whitehall, Yes Prime Minister remains a fun farce, albeit one where the fast pace is verbal rather than physical.

Unfortunately, there are cast and script changes that mean that the returning version is weaker than it was before it went walkabout.

Continue reading Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios

Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios3Scott Matthewman2012-07-11 11:13:22Yes Prime Minister returns to the West End, weakened by plot changes after its UK tour

South Downs/The Browning Version, Harold Pinter Theatre

Editor’s Rating
Rating
South Downs stars Alex Lawther (Blakemore) and Jonathan Bailey (Duffield)

Originally staged at Chichester Festival Theatre, this double bill saw one of Terrence Rattigan’s most enduring plays, the one-act The Browning Version, revived as part of the tributes to the playwright’s centenary year (cf. revivals of Cause Celebre, Flare Path, etc.

Rather than pairing it with Harlequinade, the other Rattigan one-act play it had originally been played with, though, CFT prefaced the play with a new, companion piece from contemporary playwright David Hare. South Downs, like The Browning Version, is set within the walls of an English public school. Change is similarly encroaching: in Hare’s story, it is of the forthcoming Wilson government and the socio-economic change from the white heat of technology, whereas the world outside Rattigan’s school is still embroiled in war.

The two pieces complement each other extremely well – far more than I would have expected, and I suspect far better than a revival of Harlequinade could do.

Continue reading South Downs/The Browning Version, Harold Pinter Theatre

South Downs/The Browning Version, Harold Pinter Theatre5Scott Matthewman2012-04-29 17:36:24
South Downs stars Alex Lawther (Blakemore) and Jonathan Bailey (Duffield)

Origi…

The King’s Speech, Wyndham’s Theatre

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Just two weeks ago, I was at Richmond Theatre watching the stage version of The King’s Speech (read my review here). So when I got an invitation to see the press night of the West End version, I was in two minds whether to see it again. I chose to accept partly to cheer on my friend Adam Lilley, who is in the ensemble.

I’m glad I did, though, because seeing the play again helped me clarify a few things.

Continue reading The King’s Speech, Wyndham’s Theatre

The King’s Speech, Wyndham’s Theatre3Scott Matthewman2012-03-29 10:59:04Just two weeks ago, I was at Richmond Theatre watching the stage version of The King’s Speech (read my review here). So when I got an invitation to se…

Review: The King’s Speech

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Apologies for my blog silence in recent weeks/months. At fault is a combination of being busy at work, wssting too much time on Twitter, leading a rather dull and uneventful life and being too damned lazy. Will try harder in all cases.

Anyway, to kick off an attempted revival of this blog, a delayed – and very short – review of The King’s Speech, which I attended at Richmond Theatre last week in an event organised by the theatre and Twespians.

I suppose that, in a play about a man who struggles with a stammer, it’s kind of appropriate that this play consists of several short, frustrating scenes that the playwright (and the audience) has to struggle through before getting to periods of lucidity.

Or maybe it’s just that, after the unproduced play was adapted into a successful, Oscar-winning film, the producers decided to prioritise brand recognition over script quality.

Continue reading Review: The King’s Speech

Review: The King’s Speech2Scott Matthewman2012-03-12 17:52:55Apologies for my blog silence in recent weeks/months. At fault is a combination of being busy at work, wssting too much time on Twitter, leading a rat…