The Comedy of Errors review – ‘A true northern powerhouse of a show’

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Judging by the excited audience’s carousing to its 1980s soundtrack, this show could be renamed ‘The Roar of the Roses’. This clever modernising of Shakespeare’s classic comedy has already lapped up acclaim at the Shakespeare North Playhouse and now this week it’s set to open at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Whereas this exciting production is a union of those two theatres, the play itself pits one side of the Pennines against the other.

In the red (rose) corner we’ve the northern powerhouse dukedom of Prescot (in Shakespeare’s day it was in Lancashire but now it’s Merseyside) and in the white (rose) corner the seaside dukedom of Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

Prescot’s a proper dukedom full of proper working-class locals, while seaside Scarborough is home to “decent folk” who are the “salt not of the earth but of the sea.”

And by heck, don’t those Scarborians loathe those Prescotians – and vice versa.

And woe betide anyone who mistakes Prescot for Liverpool. We all know they’re as alike as ducks and chickens.

The farce sees Prescot’s budding actor Antipholus and his loyal agent Dromio arrive in Scarborough to perform a one-man show, unaware their identical twins (separated when babies by misfortune naturally and also called Antipholus and Dromio) are residing there.

It opens with Duke Solinus (played with delight by the excellent Andy Cryer) explaining how a bitter trade war with their north-west red rose rivals means any Prescotians arriving in his beloved Scarborough to sell their wares are in for the chop.

And I don’t mean pork or karate.

So Lancastrian baker Egeon (played by Claire Eden) must have felt a right Yorkshire pudding when she foolishly came looking for her grown-up lost twin son Antipholus and his childhood pal Dromio while carrying a tray of delicious Eccles cakes – so faces a grim death.

Meanwhile, university-educated Antipholus (David Kirkbride) and Dromio (Oliver Mawdsley) of Prescot arrive to perform their show only to find their theatre’s empty that night – as the locals are watching the town’s annual ‘Search For A Star-borough’ talent show instead.

And guess who is headlining that extravaganza? Yes, Antipholus of Scarborough and his own trusty battered batman, also called Dromio!

Caught in the middle and confused by these two sets of identical twins are Antipholus of Scarborough’s loyal and long-suffering wife Adriana (Alyce Liburd) and her sibling Luciana (Ida Regan).

Along with Valeria Antwi, the seven-strong cast roar the plot along with brilliant slapstick, humour, emotion and a Duracell factory of energy.

And the show’s electricity sparks the audience who armed with song sheets are encouraged to sing along to the show’s karaoke soundtrack of 1980s hits, from Billy Joel to Whitesnake, Nik Kershaw, Cher, Madonna and – naturally – Kenny Loggins.

Godber and Lane’s writing intersperses Elizabethan Shakespeare with modern English writing to speed the plot along and bring Northern wit and grit to the tale of these two cities.

Meanwhile Paul Robinson’s masterful directing allows the cast to hilariously multi-task the farce while having a right old riot on stage with it all.

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It’s a wonderful 1980s Saturday night house party … with no Noel Edmonds and Mr Blobby replaced by Mr Whippy in a giant ice cream cone costume.

So why Prescot, you may ask? In the late 16th and early 17th Century, William Shakespeare brought his plays up to what was then the Elizabethan Prescot Playhouse to reach new audiences.

Last year this impressive 420-seat wooden playhouse opened to huge success – and like Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, it brings us closer to the action with theatre in the round.

Now Paul Robinson’s ‘The Comedy Of Errors’ is mirroring these cutting edge theatres by retelling Shakespeare’s work while keeping his soul, in a true northern powerhouse of a show

  • The Comedy of Errors (More Or Less) – From 30th March-15th April at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Directed by Paul Robinson, adapted from Shakespeare by Elizabeth Godber and Nick Lane.

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