Group: The Pranksters
Production: The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Venue: The Grounds of Guildford Castle
Date: Tuesday July 13th, 2021
Director: Jennifer Haynes
The Comedy of Errors must be one of the funniest ‘mistaken identity’ plays ever written, and this Pranksters version one of the funniest and zaniest there could be! Twins separated at birth are finally reunited, following any number of trials and tribulations along the way.
Guildford Castle Grounds are stunning, and offer a marvellous pre-show stroll to admire the fine summer planting. The stage juts out from the bandstand, huge trees provide a shady canopy, a green swathe of lawn allows for plenty of roomy seating, and the use of many different entrances from the back of the auditorium, and from all sides, for the performers. The fact that we were also treated to flights of lively and vocal swifts only added to the magic.
No scenery was necessary, just plenty of space, and the wonderful green setting for a play which is in any case set outside. Props were fun – a wooden door frame to represent the house of Antipholus; a colander, a ladle and a pair of saucepan lids for Nell, the cook; a huge gold chain; a rope; a bag of ducats; a flashing umbrella for Andropholus’s sword; and an astonishingly flashy ‘pistol’.
The stage was lit efficiently, though the sunny evening produced plenty of illumination itself. Sound was good. The choice of music was very funny indeed, for example Presley’s ‘You’re the Devil in Disguise’ for the appearance of the Courtesan.
The costumes were fantastic, and the use of that word includes the meaning of ‘full of fantasy’. The play was set in the late 50s/early 60s, and with a space theme, so the costumes echoed Star Trek (I think, though I have never seen this myself) for the twins. Boiler suits of all colours were used for various characters. The 2 Dromeos were robots in white boiler suits, knee protectors, and the most amazing grey shimmery makeup and skull caps. The Duke was splendid in his long red and black robe, and most intimidating with his striking makeup. The 2 sisters, Adriana and Luciana, wore the most interesting and attractive mini-dresses in purple and green – I couldn’t stop looking at these, wondering how they were made – and white kneelength boots. These outfits transported anyone of the right age immediately back to the heyday of our youth! Nell, the cook, white boiler suit, colander on her head, was later transformed by a wonderfully sexy red dress into the most alluring of courtesans.
So costumes played an important role in this Comedy of Errors – even the goldsmith sported a massive gold collar on her dress – and greatly enhanced the fun.
Director Jennifer Haynes put together an absolutely fabulous Comedy of Errors – the best I have ever seen – which held the audience spellbound from zany opening with whole cast on the scene referencing various space shows or films, to cheery finish. The towns of Ephesus and Syracuse are now planets, no ships sail, people travel by spacecraft.
The very strong cast filled the production with energy and zest – it fizzed from beginning to end, with not a dull moment. A nod was made to Covid times, in that we had ‘socially distanced’, front-facing fisticuffs, which was hilarious.
Highlights included the lusting of Nell, the cook, after the new Dromeo from Syracuse, and the latter’s use of the whole stage to suggest Nell’s ample dimensions: ‘I could find countries in her!’ Marvellous performances here from Jessica Hofgartner-Griffiss (Nell) and Charlotte Lamb (Dromeo from Syracuse). Another was the despair of the arrested Antipholus of Ephesus (Richard Copperwaite), who got by far the worst end of the bargain compared to his twin from Syracuse, and had just no idea whatsoever of what was happening to him. His long speech was impressive and marvellously funny.
All the cast performed their roles to perfection, there really was absolutely nothing one could possibly comment on that was in any way negative. The evening was joyous, the energy, verve and fun that cast produced was exceptional, and unforgettable.
Thank you, Pranksters, for yet another fine Castle Grounds evening!