By Abbie Gallagher
It's always a pleasure to head to Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. With three performance spaces in a range of size and audience capacity, a memorable night is always guaranteed. On this occasion, I was ready for a modern translation of Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors presented by the National Theatre of Parramatta.
Let me preface this by freely admitting A Comedy of Errors is not a Shakespeare play that I know intimately (read: at all) so I'm not going to compare this version to how well it compares with the original text. Shakespeare's plays are of course no stranger to updates and reconstruction, so one can safely assume this is in the same vein as the many others that exist past present and future.
In the city of Ephesus, Syracusian native Egeon faces execution for trespassing in the area unless he can pay the fine in a single day. Egeon is alone and downtrodden after a lifetime searching for his lost wife and sons, identical twins both named Antipholus. Yes, you read that correctly. Identical twins with the same first name. When you do something like this, aren't you practically begging for trouble? Even by Shakespeare's standards, this requires a big suspension of disbelief.
Unbeknownst to Egeon, both his sons are also in the city with their servants, unaware of the other's existence. Not only are there two Antipholus's, there's two Dromios as well. And from there, all sorts of high jinks ensue. It's the original mistaken identity story, and there's plenty to be found here.
Thanks to the modern day dialogue and the prologue song and dance routine from the cast, it's very easy to follow the story and players which can sometimes be a challenge for lesser known works of the Bard. This adaptation is in safe hands with wordsmith Hillary Bell at the helm, and her skill is evident but I'd be lying if I said this was hands down her best work. Still, I'd take her script writing and dramaturgy any day of the week regardless. Mansoor Noor steals the show as both Dromios, with a devil-may-care charm and laid back humour.
Bilal Hafda as Antipholus One and Two, though clearly differentiated with costumes and mannerisms, didn't quite sell it for me due to a lack of acting experience made clear from his bio. Rounding out the cast is Lindy Sardelic, Libby Asciak and Gabriel Fancourt, all breezing through their numerous roles with aplomb and clearly having tremendous fun along the way.
Designer Imogen Ross has overcome the obvious challenges of the small cast and double ups with her colourful costumes and a glitzy set that looks like the love child of Studio 54 and Aladdin.
Director Stefo Nantsou has put together this production with an undercurrent of fun-for-all-the-family throughout. The audience and especially the children in attendance were happy to come along for the ride and were definitely enjoying themselves, but the infrequent audience interaction probably could have been cut and some scenes weren't as seamless as they could have been indicating a short rehearsal period. But with that being said, it's an old school comedy. If you come in expecting Hamlet you're going to be disappointed and you probably deserve to be. At the end of the day, this is harmless fun and one of the most coherent shows I've seen at this year's Fringe. It's productions like this that show the endless possibilities of Shakespeare, and why his work still endures 400 years after his death.
Image Credit: Noni Carroll
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.