Review: The Comedy of Errors at Maynardville

2012-02-05 09:08
A case of mistaken identity, truth, lies, loyalty and betrayal, and final reunion. With kicks.

Shakespeare's leading ladies have never been known for their meekness but Sonia Esgueira in the role of Adriana gives new meaning to the term "feisty".

Think Amy Winehouse meets your crazed kugel cousin come home to roost. She is all lashes and attitude strutting her stuff on platform shoes. Frighteningly aggressive and possessed by a libido that doesn't understand 'no' or even 'later', she is bested only by the even more lecherous Nell (Chi Mhende) who spends virtually the entire play charging down the terrified Dromio in amorous pursuit.

It's no wonder then that this year's production features a kung-fu theme. Yes, you read that right.

A brother's gotta have some solid self-defence skills these days. Forget the usual sedate soliloquising, this is rough stuff! The twin protagonists played by Nicholas Pauling and Andrew Laubscher, both called Antipholus, are clad in yellow jumpsuits taken straight out of a Tarantino flick and the action is just as intense. Their twin sidekicks, a Mario and Luigi pairing of Rob van Vuuren and James Cairns, complete the pop-culture wardrobe effect.

The mayhem which follows as the pairs of twins get roundly confused by everyone, including themselves, leads to a series of spectacular misunderstandings punctuated by Crouching Tiger-styled fight scenes.

A B-movie audio soundtrack of kung-fu chops and swishes fills the air as the characters duke it out onstage. Throw in a panda and another pair of lowlifes in the form of a sluttish courtesan (Jenny Stead) who lisps in a mock-Chinese accent and a sleazy goldsmith (Francesco Nassimbeni) with serious Hunter S Thompson pretensions and you have a hit production!

Potentially dry dialogue is enlivened by colourful and graphic displays which animate the storyline and clarify the complicated plot. At times, though, there is obvious jarring between the text and its orientalised setting. A better handling of the script would have resolved this problem more deftly.

Also, the convention of sitting down and slouching during the delivery of the first soliloquy seemed at odds with the play's otherwise high-octane pace.

Retro 80s pop-themed music (with DJ) provides the soundscape between scenes. Full marks for costume design which features yards of glossy silk in bright primary colours along with Japanese manga-inspired outfits. The weird and wildly unscripted choreography actually works brilliantly and Adriana's lewd-yet-ungainly fan-dance has got to be the funniest piece of ad lib cabaret ever!

This year's Shakespeare play at Maynardville breathes new life into the annual tradition and is the best thing I've seen in this vein since Baz Luhrman rewrote the book on Romeo and Juliet.

All credit to director Matthew Wild for his inspired take on a difficult play. A must see!

The Comedy of Errors runs at Maynardville Open-air Theatre, Wynberg, from 10 January to 18 February 2012. Visit for more information.

This year's Shakespeare play at Maynardville breathes new life into the annual tradition.
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