The Comedy of Errors can be a challenging play to stage for several reasons. Shakespeare’s play revolves around two pairs of twin brothers (two named Antipholus, each of whom has a servant, Dromio, and neither Antipholus/Dromio pair knows that the other exists). The device leads to much comical, slapstick confusion, which can befuddle audiences or delight them.
The Globe Theater’s 2014 production (which I downloaded and enjoyed on the Globe app, which I previously reviewed in this space), masterfully met the challenge. Simon Harrison (Antipholus of Syracuse) and Matthew Needham (Antipholus of Ephesus, above) turned in stellar performances, but the show belongs to the Dromios, and Jamie Wilkes (above) and Brodie Ross played their demanding roles perfectly. The production even added a few slapstick devices that enchanted the audience from the beginning and elicited even more laughter and applause at key moments.
I was especially pleased that the physical comedy didn’t step on any of the play’s great lines, such as Antipholus of Syracuse’s “I to the world am like a drop of water / That in the ocean seeks another drop” (I, 2, 35). I loved that the cast turned the line, “There’s many a man hath more hair than wit” (II, 2, 82), against the audience. And the final lines, “We came into the world like brother and brother / And now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another” (V, 1, 424) actually elicited sympathetic “awwws” from the crowd.
The entire production, designed by James Cotterill and directed by Blanche McIntyre, was flawlessly paced and beautifully presented. Such excellence is expected from The Globe, of course, but is nonetheless applauded.