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The Comedy of Errors review at Rougemont Gardens, Exeter – ‘an entertaining outdoor staging’

The cast of the Exeter Northcott production of The Comedy of Errors The cast of the Exeter Northcott production of The Comedy of Errors

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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Entertaining, circus-filled outdoor staging of Shakespeare’s mistaken identity comedy