The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s early literary effort which paints with broad brush strokes the life of Renaissance society. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from the play The Menaechmi, written by the ancient Roman dramatist, Plautus which told a tale of twins who were separated at birth. In Shakespeare’s version of the plot however not one but two sets of identical twins are at the centre of his story. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. Whatever its shortcomings The Comedy of Errors is tongue-in-cheek, full of fun and cleverness but it is essentially a farce through and through with ever-mounting ridiculous situations and barely plausible twists of plots.
The Handlebards bring gloriously to the fore the play’s farcical elements resulting in a genuinely Pythonesque performance. As an all male fringe production produced on the cheap (the set consists of two tents and a curtain adjoining them) instead of hiding the flaws and the DIY nature of the set design and the props the production makes it the chief source of humour. Female breasts become two shuttlecocks and two badminton rackets become puppets. At the same time the main motif of the design are various cycling paraphernalia – promoting a sustainability context for the Handlebards’ tour done on bicycles.
The absurdity of performing Shakespeare’s play by four actors where a dozen of different characters need to be on the stage is greatly taken advantage of too. The actors simply resort to audience involvement which is done smoothly and without hassle. There are many more ingenious ploys used by the actors on the stage but it would be a shame to divulge them all. The sense of uncurbed fun and frolic permeates the performance from start to finish which is enhanced greatly by the use of live music.
The production directed by James Farrell is full of inventiveness, energy and charm. So if the production comes your way do not miss it!