Amidst so many contemporary plays – indeed, even compared against some of his own – Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ seems frivolous, farcical, even trivial. And that is precisely what drew me and my fellow co-director to it in the first place. Theatre, by virtue of its imitation or exaggeration of real life, provides an escape. This is no less true for my cast and production team.
‘The Comedy of Errors’, being Shakespeare’s first-performed play, is refreshingly unpretentious and, in its own way, oddly transcendent: we’ve all groaned at that one friend who makes terrible jokes. We’ve all had, or have ourselves been, too jealous of someone else. We’ve all been mistaken for a long-lost brother who was shipwrecked at birth – alright, maybe I’m pushing it with the last one. But the point remains, that the characters throughout are some of the most real – the most human – in the Bard’s works: silly, serious, furious, and lovestruck by turns.
With an intense month of rehearsal under our belts and a great deal of comedic fine-tuning, we managed to drill into the depths of characters which weren’t immediately apparent. As a director, what I found most interesting was examining the supporting characters in the play. Though indisputably a comedy to its very core, Shakespeare still manages to explore human contradictions and internal, as well as external, dichotomies. The opening scene, for instance, presents a sombre sense of finality which is utterly belied by the ensuing capers that take place. In truth, though maybe this is just theatrical Stockholm Syndrome talking, I’ve never been more impressed by Shakespeare as a playwright.
So, if like me, in the cold, dreary weather of the north-eastern winter, you find yourself wondering, “Do I want to see a play in which puns feature more heavily than monologues and the only thing I have to worry about is when the next joke will be delivered?” then come along and see Shakespeare’s earliest, and perhaps even defining, comedy this weekend.
‘The Comedy of Errors’ will be shown in St Mary’s College (Dining Hall), from Saturday 3rd-Sunday 4th March, 8:30pm.