The Comedy of Errors review at Rougemont Gardens, Exeter – ‘an entertaining outdoor staging’
With fire juggling, knife throwing, trampolining and tightrope walking, director Poppy Burton Morgan must have had a lot of fun putting this version of The Comedy of Errors together.
Her production for Exeter’s Northcott Theatre is set in a faded Victorian circus complete with painted caravan and vaudeville clowns. Solinus, the Duke of Ephesus, is here a lip-sticked ring-mistress (Katriona Brown) mildly exasperated at her wayward charges. Martin Bassindale’s Antipholus of Syracuse is a favourite with the audience, stepping out of character at one point to sneakily pinch a Malteser from the front row.
Performed in the Rougemont Gardens and at the mercy of the south west weather, Jean Chan’s set design cleverly makes a virtue of its outdoor setting. Deliberately mud-splattered stripy curtains and a straw-covered floor create a similar aesthetic to a down-at-heel seaside pier. The fact that it’s meant to be ramshackle helps make up for unintentional moments of slapstick.
Lydia Hardiman’s costumes likewise have a fun dressing-up box feel to them. Adriana (Jennifer Ruth-Adams) has iridescent mermaid tail leggings, whilst Luciana (Lucy May Rothwell) struts around in a Noel Cowardesque dressing gown and showgirl pink feathers.
For all its quirkiness, the production doesn’t particularly illuminate Shakespeare’s comedy. Still, it serves its intended purpose as enjoyable community-focused theatre. The audience come prepared with sturdy deck chairs, waterproof trousers and, in one case, a sleeping bag – and there’s something very pleasing about hearing ‘Syracuse’ said with a West Country accent.
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