The Comedy of Errors at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Nov 2, then touring nationwide until Dec 7.
If you’re schooling was anything like mine, you were force fed a slice of Shakespeare – read aloud, if you were lucky – at the age of around 13. It was drier than the school canteen’s sponge pudding.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s First Encounters programme is changing that, with a series of productions aimed at children, starring children, and – judging by the show I saw – attracting children and eager parents in droves. For many, their first taste of Shakespeare, thanks to the RSC, will be a thing to remember, instead of a term of English Lit you’d rather forget.
The Comedy of Errors is the current First Encounters endeavour, aimed primarily at those aged 7-13.
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it… nope, no punchline, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. The parade of slapstick, live music and goofy humour deliver this early Shakespeare comedy to a new and excited generation. Older generations will simply appreciate the intimate staging of a laugh-out-loud story. Though, if you’re of a certain age, you might be confused by the double dose of flossing.
I took my 13-year-old stepdaughter to see The Comedy of Errors. She thoroughly enjoyed it and laughed in all the right places, even when I thought the original text might prove a little difficult to understand. She didn’t really get the story, so it’s worth giving your young theatre-lovers a quick idea of what the thing’s about before you see it.
It goes like this: A man named Aegeon and his wife have twins. They call them both Antipholus (and no one saw the confusion coming?) and buy twin servants, both called Dromio (seriously?). The twins are separated in a shipwreck. One Antipholus and Dromio grow up in Syracuse, one Antipholus and Dromio end up in Ephesus, which is where the play begins 33 years after the births of Antipholus I and Antipholus II. Amusement arises when Syracusian Antipholus and Dromio arrive in Ephesus – and everyone seems to know who they are, including a woman convinced she is the wife of Antipholus.
The double Dromios (Lewis Griffin and Thomas Pickles) are responsible for most of the belly laughs, while Paula James as Emilia has a natural rapport with the audience.
There are only a few seats left for the final performances in Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday November 1 and Friday November 2. The production then visits Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Kent, Hull, York, Bradford and Stoke-on-Trent. Children from local schools make an appearance during each show for one scene.
If you don’t bag tickets for The Comedy of Errors, keep an eye out for a future First Encounters performance.
The Stratfordblog verdict
Entertaining and engaging, The Comedy of Errors is a faultless foreword to the world of Shakespeare.
The Comedy of Errors at the RSC Stratford-upon-Avon runs until Nov 2, then touring nationwide until Dec 7. Look for Stratford-upon-Avon tickets or those at UK venues here.
Main image credit Sam Allard © RSC