The mother of all mistaken identity comedies, The Comedy of Errors gets a lockdown makeover in the hands of the bilingual theatre group The Blind Cupid Shakespeare Company. They turn on their laptops, take their positions, open Zoom and pronto, the stage is set. The troupe attack the classic farce with vigor, some of it in English, some in Italian, because why not? There’s always room for a tinge of madness in a Shakespeare adaptation.
Not even Zoom can hold back their strong presence.
The modern version of The Comedy of Errors highlights the adaptability of the bard’s plays in our lonely quarantine existence, where we desperately need love and real human connections. There is plenty to relate to. How many times have we mistaken an identity of someone wearing a mask? How often do we feel lost and disconnected behind our screens? And isn’t identity theft one of the worst personal catastrophes we could face?
The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's early plays. It is also the shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, which make it a firm fringe favourite. The majority of the humour is slapstick, with some iconic lines like: “The venom clamours of a jealous woman, poisons more deadly than a mad dog's tooth.” Using Italian in the play is an interesting choice, since the story is actually set in the Greek city of Ephesus.
The story tells of two sets of identical twins who were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio, arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio. When the Syracusans encounter the loved ones of their identical twins, a series of mistaken identities and misunderstandings lead to seduction, infidelity, beating, theft, arrest and ultimately, madness.
The Blind Cupid Shakespeare Company wants to encapsulate the beauty of traditional Shakespeare in a modern world, making is accessible to all. Besides theatre, they have used workshops, events and audio content to expand their outreach and encourage people to connect with Shakespeare. The young and ambitious troupe attack the play full on; not even Zoom can hold back their strong presence and will to perform, as they seemed ready to burst out of the screen.
While the troupe made the most of their chosen medium and managed to keep the energy levels up, Shakespeare belongs on the stage. The performance is a sad reminder of lockdown theatre and a zeitgeist of the weird pandemic era, when Zoom become our window to the world and actors were stuck in their living rooms, trying to connect with their audience through their laptops. I’ll be more than happy to close that window and get back to the way things were.