Of all the multiple Shakespeares this year it looks, surprisingly enough, like it's The Comedy of Errors that'll get the most productions in London. I haven't seen a production for years (this is my first review of it on this blog, which is about to turn 5 years old) so when there was one pretty much on my doorstep I decided to give it a go. Then no sooner had I booked it than news came out of the Propeller version coming to Hampstead in the summer, and the National planning one for Christmas (plus the RSC have just had one at the Roundhouse, albeit a Young People's Shakespeare version that only played one London performance.) What next? Will I spend 2012 listening to different arrangements of "Who Is Silvia?" LITERARY JOKE! LAUGH, YOU'LL LOOK CLEVER! Anyway, on to Bryn Holding's production at Greenwich Playhouse, which starts disastrously as Kenneth Jay, as Egeon, decides that what a lengthy expositional speech really needs is to be three times as long as necessary, with at least one new gesture or facial tic per word of script.
After this things take a long while to warm up, the blocking is sometimes messy and the performances vary in quality. Sophie Cosson's Adriana is a one-note, screaming harridan who should hope the wind doesn't change if she doesn't want her face to get stuck mid-gurn, while Stephen Barden as the Duke seems to have little concern for what the lines he's saying might actually mean. The Antipholuses, Nico Lennon and Patrick West-Oram, are a bit stiff but OK, though both could do with some work on their stage fighting. The production's better-served in its Dromios though, Mark Collier and David Eaton - the latter, (Ephesus) the standout of the show with a lot of scene-stealing comic business. Nicola Wilkinson as the Courtesan and Robert Madeley in a variety of smaller roles are also very good.
Holding has set his production in a 1950s English seaside town with three wooden changing huts in the background, which get used well, and having Antipholus of Syracuse do some shopping for tatty (if anachronistic) souvenirs leads to a nicely-done gag about swords. After a shaky start things do gain some momentum and although there's nowhere near as many laughs as should be had in a production of this particularly bonkers play, it does raise some smiles.
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare is booking until the 20th of February at Greenwich Playhouse.