The Comedy of Errors

A week into the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and I’m sure that most parents have had to endure fairies, talking animals and patronising presenters, all for their little darlings. Take Thou That Theatre Company with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School have a breath of fresh air to offer with their adaption of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, suitable for ages 7+. Director Toby Hulse’s stripped-down adaptation promises vaudeville, slapstick comedy and clowning, and they certainly deliver.

A sketch involving a long plank of wood and the back of a man’s head (you can guess what happens) receives a knowing chuckle from the adults and excited gasps from the younger audience members.

This is the company’s third year in Edinburgh, having previously taken Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet to the Fringe to rave reviews. Children are introduced to theatrical devices and the power of imagination through fun; a door is “built” before their eyes in one scene. Because of this, there’s never a chance for a young audience member to lose their way in the story- everything is perfectly laid out for a theatre newbie in a non-patronising way.

Shakespearean language for children- so how does that work? The exposition that begins the show explains the background to the play and the language very well. From then on a mix of stripped back Shakespearean text with the odd modern phrase, along with expressive acting to spell out certain phrases, brings the play together. Themes that children may find boring are dealt with in a similar way, with a hilarious scene in which Antipholus (Tim Innes) and Adriana (Erin Doherty) talk about their relationship by mimicking extracts of iconic films. This was one of the highlights of the show.

Add to this a vaudeville set, costumes and a ton of slapstick and there you have The Comedy of Errors. Tim Innes and Ewan Black have great chemistry as each doubles as identical twins, Antipholus of Ephesus/Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus/Syracuse. Black plays a Chuckle Brothers act, spending most of the show as a Barry Chuckle sound-alike serving Joey Essex. The entire cast of seven play multiple parts, each having a moment to shine and all with several slapstick moments that have the audience howling with laughter. A sketch involving a long plank of wood and the back of a man’s head (you can guess what happens) receives a knowing chuckle from the adults and excited gasps from the younger audience members.

The Comedy of Errors begins at 11am, so there’s really no excuse not to see it. This is the perfect way to introduce your child to Shakespeare or as a first “grown up” trip to the theatre. It’s an endlessly watchable piece of theatre for all ages that you’ll want to see over and over. So, if you do book a ticket to the show, take me with you. 

Reviews by Emily Dunford

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Performances

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The Blurb

The Comedy of Errors is a stripped down version of Shakespeare's most ridiculous comedy. Running at an hour, Shakespeare's original play is enhanced with smatterings of modern text, and the production draws on the rich traditions of vaudeville, slapstick comedy and the infectious sounds of Klezmer music. With two sets of identical twins to be played by a cast of seven, The Comedy of Errors makes for madcap doubling, hilarious mix-ups and a lot of running around. Specially adapted for audiences 7+. ‘Fun, hilarious, like watching a comic strip cartoon’ (Bristol Post).

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