The Comedy of Errors (22nd January 2011, Sheffield)

Some productions play Shakespeare in what some people might term as traditional and it can be fine, but what I really enjoy is when I come across a production that takes risks, because when they come off, they can be exciting and memorable. Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors was such a production.

Set in Mexico (or possibly Spain), the actors were able to convey the sense of the heat and the street life.  It was clearly a tourist destination waiting for the unsuspecting visitors from Syracuse.

What I liked the most about this production was the way the company were on stage throughout.  Wearing dark glasses and football shirts, they play interments throughout providing music and jokey sounds to comment on the action.  Just a shake of their heads was beguiling, and they reminded me a little of Robert Palmer’s backing band.  This device was used to great effect in that actors could move in and out of character and it also presented them with a device to make sure everyone was in the right place for the reveal at the end.

The play includes some of the typical tropes of comedy such as misappropriation of purse, and twins, but what Propeller’s production did brilliantly was play wonderfully on the stereotypes to great effect. We see the vain officer, the drag queen, and tanned dealer selling  what he can.

We are very clear that men are playing women, but I felt I believed in the characters. I really enjoyed this production and certainly want to see more.

Previews and Reviews

The Comedy of Errors/Richard III – review | Stage | The Guardian
Comedy of Errors – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
FT.com / Arts / Theatre & Dance – The Comedy of Errors/Richard III, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, UK
The Comedy of Errors / Richard III, Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – Reviews, Theatre & Dance – The
Richard lll and The Comedy of Errors; Greenland | review | Culture | The Observer
Richard III/The Comedy of Errors, Sheffield Lyceum, review – Telegraph

 

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Best of 2010

Theatre: Shakespeare

1. Romeo and Juliet (RSC).

2. King Lear (RSC).

3. As You Like It (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

4. Measure for Measure (Almeida).

5. The Winter’s Tale (RSC/Roundhouse).

6. Henry IV part 2 (Globe).

7. Macbeth (Globe).

8. Antony and Cleopatra (RSC).

9. Antony and Cleopatra (Liverpool Playhouse).

10. Hamlet (The Crucible, Sheffield).

11. King Lear (Donmar).

12. Henry VIII (The Globe).

13. The Tempest (Old Vic).

14. As You Like It (Old Vic)

15. Macbeth (Belt Up/York Theatre Royal).

Theatre: Not Shakespeare

1. Jerusalem (Apollo).

2. After the Dance (National).

3. An Enemy of the People (Sheffield Crucible).

4. Women Beware Women (National).

5. London Assurance (National).

6. Enron (Theatre Royal, Newcastle)

7. The Habit of Art (National Theatre).

8. Corrie! (Lowry, Salford)

9. The Real Thing (Old Vic).

10. Canterbury Tales (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Northern Broadsides).

11. La Bete (Comedy Theatre).

12. Death of a Salesman (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

13. Three Sisters (Lyric, Hammersmith).

14. The Misanthrope (Comedy Theatre)

15. Beating Berlusconi. (York Theatre Royal).

  

Exhibitions

1. Gauguin (Tate Modern).

2. Van Gogh (Royal Academy).

3. Renaissance drawings (The British Museum).

4. The Book of the Dead (British Museum).

5. Venice. Canaletto and his rivals. (The National Gallery).

6. Sargent and the Sea (Royal Academy).

7. Rude Britannia (Tate Britain).

8. Summer Show (Royal Academy).

9. Beatles to Bowie (National Portrait Gallery).

10. Chris Ofili (Tate Britain).

  

Books

1. Andrea Levy The Long Song.

2. Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall.

3. AS Byatt – The Children’s Book.

4. Rose Tremain – Trespass.

5. Colm Toibin Brooklyn.

6. Ian McEwan  Solar.

7. Paul Magrs Diary of a Doctor Who Addict.

8. Tony Blair The Journey.

9. Kate Atkinson Started Early, Took My Dog.

10. Alexander McCall Smith The Double Comfort Safari Club.

TV

1. Coronation Street –  especially for Jack’s Death and the Live episode (ITV).

3. Ashes to Ashes (BBC1).

4. Doctor Who – The End of Time part 2 (BBC1).

5. Doctor Who – especially for the eleventh hour (BBC1).

6. Downton Abbey (ITV1)

7. I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (ITV1).

8. Macbeth (BBC 4).

9. Luther (BBC1).

10. Silent Witness (BBC 1).

and my guilty pleasure of the year

Peter Kay at the Studio, Lowry (and again at the Manchester Evening News Arena).

King Lear (Donmar Warehouse, 11th December 2010)

As we climbed the stairs up to the Circle at the Donmar, we could feel the heat hit us the higher we went.  Wearing several layers of clothes because of the cold weather outside, it was clear that we were going to be hot through the production.  It was very strange watching King Lear feeling so hot on a cold winter’s day.  Sat right at the back of the circle, I felt at a distance from the production, even though the Donmar is such an intimate space.  How you feel, and where you view the production from, has an impact on how you experience it. I think being hot and high up made me think of the performances in a way I might not have if I’d been in the stalls.
 
The focus was on the language of the characters and not on clever stage devices.  I liked the way that the production was well paced and only three hours long.  I also liked the white cube minimal set design, as it seemed to emphasise the bleakness, but it also gives space for the language to create the sense of place.  The black shadows on the stage walls were like the carrion on the publicity material, which was a nice effect.  There was also some very clear verse speaking from some of the lead characters.  Indeed, all the reviews say that  this production is a great production, and Michael Billington said that Jacobi was one of the great  Lears of all time.  I would say that Jacobi’s central performance was very good indeed.  Overall the production just  didn’t take my breath away. Some performances stood out such as Gina McKee who was a good Goneril, but without the temper that Kelly Hunter has brought to the role in the RSC production (now at the Roundhouse).  The final scene was very moving  and Jacobi made a good attempt to bring the body on stage, but had to be helped to set the body down.  At the very end and just before the curtain call, the lights come up and the sun shines for a moment presenting an image of hope. 
 
I will see this production again at NT Live. It will be interesting to see the production close up on the big screen. I am sure this will be a very different viewing experience, and I will miss being in the theatre witnessing a live performance.
  
Reviews and Previews

The Stage / Reviews / King Lear

Sir Derek Jacobi: King Lear, the mountain you h…

King Lear Reviews at Donmar Warehouse – London …
FT.com / Arts / Theatre & Dance – King Lear, Do…

The Guardian review