A custard pie in the face. Actual slapsticks. An ISIS-style beheading played for laughs.
This Pop-Up Globe production whacks Shakespeare’s story of separated twins with the pantomime stick.
To exotic Ephesus, then, a city under the thumb of The Duke (Nigel Langley), a Carry-On Caliph commanding an army of black-clad thugs.
Up for execution is Egeon (Greg Johnson), a Syracusian merchant who has unwisely tried to play his trade. Luckily, the Duke is in the mood for a story and Egeon has a cracker: 33 years ago, he fathered of twin boys and named both of them Antipholus. As you do.
He then purchased another pair of twins, both named Dromio, to be their servants.
Egeon and his wife were sailing home with their sons and servants when they were shipwrecked. Only one Antipholus and one Dromio survived and they, coincidentally, are also in Ephesus, searching for their lost twins who just so happen to be living in the city and are completely unaware of their doppelgangers.
Miles Gregory (whose brain-child this venture is) directs and turns up the volume on madcappery to maximum for the duration, in boisterously choreographed scenes performed by Pop-Up Globe’s mixed-gender Southampton’s Company.
Performances are uniformly over-the-top but are expertly judged. Ryan Bennett and Blake Kubena are very funny as the two Dromios, ducking and weaving while their twin masters (Hugh Sexton and Jason Will) grapple with the confusion they’ve cause among the townsfolk.
Smaller roles pop sharply: Angelo the goldsmith is played with a touch of Queer Eye camp by Matu Ngaropo. Stephen Lovatt electrifies the stage as the quack Dr Pinch (who travels with a troupe of whirling dervishes); Amanda Billing brings the house down as Emilia, the long-lost wife of Egeon, now a starchy abbess.
One of Shakespeare’s earliest efforts (circa 1594), The Comedy of Errors has its exasperating passages of play but the bond created between audience and company is such that the play’s schematics and long-winded explanations can be acknowledged, played to the hilt, and used to fuel more laughter.