Southampton Company’s The Comedy of Errors opens to blood splattering and fellatio mimicry—a signal of the unabashed humour to come, as this farcical tale of mistaken identities unfolds. This whimsical rendition of Shakespeare’s iconic comedy is currently on show at the Pop-up Globe theatre in Moore Park.
The tale begins as a Syracusan merchant named Egeon who is set to be executed reveals a tale of woe. His family were victims of a shipwreck. But the family was split in two. Egeon, his son Antipholus and Antipholus’ servant Dromio were saved, while his wife, Emilia, their other son, also named Antipholus (what a coincidence), and Antipholus’ servant, also called Dromio were swept away.
Or were they? As it happens, decades later, each pair of twins finds themselves in Ephesus. The Antipholus and Dromio that were swept away with Emilia call Ephesus home. They’re well-known around the city and are both happily married. The other pair have recently arrived in Ephesus but must pretend they’re citizens of the city. If they are found to be from Syracuse, they will face execution like Egeon.
From here, tomfoolery abounds as Antipholus and Dromio from Syracuse unwittingly create endless trouble for Antipholus and Dromio from Ephesus.
In a script laden with twists and turns director Miles Gregory focuses on entertaining the crowd. The production embraces slapstick, physical comedy, pantomime and toilet humour, and the cast not only succeed, but revel in this style of performance. Each member of the company gives high energy and joyful interpretations of their roles—special mention goes to each Dromio given golden nuggets of dialogue they successfully cash in to uproarious effect.
With a focus on catch-all humour, Gregory successfully takes Shakespeare out of an elite theatre space and back to what it once was: mainstream entertainment. The Pop-up Globe theatre venue further enables this by building a sense of what theatre going would’ve been like in the Elizabethan era, with people able to talk, walk around, eat, drink and performers able to move about the audience with ease.
This production will be enjoyable for many. However, some people may find the comedy forced and the acting painfully over the top. Lovers of highbrow theatre—you have been warned.
Nevertheless, the show offers a unique theatre going experience that makes Shakespeare accessible and, more importantly, will have you smiling all night. This, with a strong cast and vision makes The Comedy of Errors a highly recommended night out.