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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Splendid Tomfoolery in The Comedy of Errors at The Royal Exchange

Getting my husband along to see something Shakespearean at the theatre is a tricky business. He likes Macbeth - no doubt something to do with the high body count rather than the poetry and the beauty of the words - but he is frankly very suspicious of anything purporting to be a comedy. In short, he thinks Shakespeare does "funny" about as well as Lenny Henry in a Travelodge advert or post-Blackadder Ben Elton.

But I was onto a potential winner with tickets to The Comedy of Errors at The Royal Exchange last night, for the following reasons:

1. Tickets were £5 for great stage-level seats - a Twitter offer designed to get bums on seats on a quiet Bank Holiday. Incidentally, I have filed this piece of information away for future use in my "Yes! Twitter IS educational" thesis.

2. The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare's shortest comedy at a measly ninety minutes - no time here for boredom (or for long and incomprehensible speeches).

3. It's also actually funny. Some of Shakespeare's comedy hasn't aged very well, particularly the plays which rely on verbal trickery, but The Comedy of Errors is unashamedly slapstick - farcical in the true sense of the word. Yes, as usual the humour comes from mistaken identity with people mysteriously unable to identify their husband, lover etc from their not-very-identical twin, but this matters not - it's funny and that's the end of it.

I made sure he'd had a couple of Happy Hour cocktails at Grinch first, just in case his trenchant distrust of Shakespeare was more deep-rooted than I'd thought, but I needn't have worried - after a slow first ten minutes the production was simply superb.

The acting was uniformly good, but the hero was Owain Arthur (I don't know what else he's been in - maybe The Bill?) as Dromio of Ephesus, one of the two servant twins, and although he does get all the best lines he certainly makes the most of them. Almost as good was Jack Farthing as Antipholus of Ephesus, a deliciously oily womaniser with a dubious line in coats.

The play is on until May 8th and is certainly worth a visit - see for details. The final word should go the Shakespeare cynic, who proudly informed me afterwards that he had counted no fewer than 32 laughs, and was now satisfied that the Bard can do comedy when he puts his mind to it. Well, Shakespeare will be pleased, and will no doubt sleep soundly now.

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