Review – Comedy of Errors – National Theatre

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It’s been over a week since I’ve seen this show and I’m having a hard time writing up my review. That tends to happen with shows that I’m not passionate about, and that’s definitely the case for the National’s current production of Comedy of Errors. The play was really fresh in my mind thanks to seeing Propeller’s “pocket” version of it in September; this production showed to me that most of the flaws of this show come right down to the script. While there are some momemts I enjoyed (such as Dromio of Syracuse’s description of maid Luce), the comedy seems to turn far too much on just how funny it is to beat up servants. I found this offensive, nearly as bad to my 21st century sensibilities as Taming of the Shrew. Anyway …

The National has gone for a non-typical cast by creating Egeon (merchant of Syracuse, Joseph Mydell) and his wife (played by Pamela Nomvete) as black people, thus the two sets of twins, their sons Antiopholus (one of Syracuse, Lenny Henry, the other of Ephesus, Chris Jarman) and their respective servants Dromio (one of Syracuse, Lucian Msamati, one of Ephesus, Daniel Poyser) are also black. This allows them to add a lot of flavor to the production, sort of a Caribbean touch, that wouldn’t have been there otherwise; but what I really liked about it is that it gave a bunch of folks I probably never would have seen on stage together a chance to get out there and really show their chops. And they were great! Both Antipholus (Antipholi?) really hammed up the gags, and the Dromio’s were suitably comic and downtrodden and goofy. However … I was just waiting for the Dromio’s to slap the Antipholi for their ridiculous behavior and say, “I am a man, and you are not to treat me like a dog. I quit. Go find your own damned rope.” But it never happened. So yes, there were some mistaken identities, and the cast was all a top notch pile such as one will find at the National, and the set was nicely designed … but in the end I just didn’t really care that much. A fine evening and one that I forgot almost as soon as the door had shut behind me. Perhaps I’ll get to see them all reunited some day in a much better play than this one.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, November 25th, 2011. It’s booking through April 2012.)

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One Response to “Review – Comedy of Errors – National Theatre”

  1. Not the West End Whingers Says:

    Really couldnt agree more. What is really sad is that this production has had shedloads of money thrown at it and yet it falls as flat as a flan in a cupboard. It raised barely at titter from last night’s audience, probably because the diction is so (almost) universally appalling that nobody could hear the dialogue. Lenny Henry just isnt funny. It all smacked far too much of being in very much the same vein as “One Man, Two Guvnors”, right down to the irritating muscians strolling onto the stage at various moments.

    It really comes to something when The National are reduced to doing fart jokes.

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