Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester
August 8- August 20, 2020; 80min, no interval
In a highly-imagined feat of stagecraft, director Alex Clifton and his talented group of eight actors have delivered live theatre for our socially distanced times.
This open air venue, part of Chester’s Storyhouse, had previously postponed all its productions until next year. The decision to go ahead with The Comedy of Errors was based on experience gained in opening up the city centre main building's cinemas, restaurant and library.
Audience admission is controlled by stewards, ensuring that the auditorium, with its much-reduced seating capacity of 150 (normally 600), is appropriately spaced. Wooden barrels, two metres apart, circle the stage and act as reference points for the actors. Music, an integral part of these productions, is expertly woven into this comic story of mistaken identity by the music director and guitarist, Jessica Dives, who also plays four minor characters with great aplomb.
The light comedy, one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays now shortened even more, to around 80 minutes, features two sets of twins divided at birth, who grow up ignorant of and separated from their twins – one in Ephesus, the other in Syracuse. When the Ephesus twins travel to Syracuse, confusion ensues as, predictably, each twin is constantly mistaken for the other with hilarious consequences.
This production works particularly well because the actors playing the twins actually are identical twins, establishing authenticity to the plot. The Bird sisters, Danielle and Nichole, play Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse respectively. Likewise the Izzard sisters, Mari and Lowri, play Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus respectively. Tricky to get your head around? Just relax and let the comedy take over, all becomes clear. The confusion starts when Antipholus and his servant Dromio from Ephesus decide to visit Syracuse and are immediately mistaken for their Syracusian doppelgangers.
All is resolved in the time-honoured Shakespearean fashion of full disclosure, reconciliation – and a dance. Rehearsed and performed under the limitations imposed by the pandemic, this production succeeds in delivering comic theatre at its best. Highly recommended.
More info and tickets here