Every year, the Cambridge American Stage Tour takes a Shakespeare play across the United States and returns, victorious, for a home-run in the ADC’s familiar arms.
This was, perhaps embarrassingly, actually my first viewing of a Cambridge tour show. I was both excited to see how polished it would be, after multiple runs in numerous venues, and a little concerned that the actors would be visibly sick to death of the show. While the first count was absolutely true, the vitality and energy that fills the production means that the latter didn’t even cross my mind.
The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s shortest, and silliest, plays. Think The Parent Trap meets Ancient Greece meets…witches? As is typical of Shakespearean comedy, a series of absurd coincidences and misunderstandings provide much of the action, which here is the case of not one but TWO sets of identical twins, separated at birth, with one of each set of twins sent with the other. So there are two Antipholuses, and two Dromios. It is also their birthday, which gives rise to the fabulously sparkly but conveniently simple set, bedecked with metallic pink streamers and abandoned party hats.
In director Jessica Murdoch’s fabulously jazzed-up adaptation, tightly choreographed musical numbers sit side by side with Shakespearean English. The songs that accompany set-changes are superb, playing into the idea of Antipholus’ birthday party, and the brilliant Sophie Atherton’s karaoke number (with rousing cries of support from her onstage sister, played by Ellie Cole) is one of the highlights of the show. I also want to mention James Rodgers’ excellent ability to actually turn bright red with rage at the drop of a hat – his increasing frustration as the play’s misunderstandings grow is wonderful to watch.
Altogether it’s a production of incredible physicality – from the numerous dance numbers to the frantic running hither and thither to the gruesome facial contortions of the four twins, possessed either by fear or rage. I felt almost exhausted by the sheer amount of dashing around both backstage and on, so I can only applaud the cast for managing to retain the same great level of energy throughout the show.
Jamie Sayers appears in a dress, for reasons that are not explained for some time, but was appreciated nonetheless. Gabriel Wheble and Tom Nunan, as the two Antipholuses (Antipholi?), wear suitably horrifying matching Hawaiian-print shirts and shorts; Sophie Atherton has a coconut shell bra; Oliver Jones is wearing sunglasses in almost every scene. There is a tangible summer holiday vibe, which seems deeply appropriate given their American summer holiday adventure. Above all else, this play is fun – to watch and, I am sure, to participate in, given the enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment that underpins the whole show.
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