Folksy Theatre describe their touring, and frequently open air, production of The Comedy of Errors as being ‘Filled with Folksy's wonderful live music, audience interaction and downright silliness!’. While they’re not wrong, the tone at which these components are pitched is somewhat problematic – the ‘silliness’ (overacting and slapstick humor) is perfect for children, as are the small additions they’ve made to the script, or at least they would be, if weren’t for the inaccessibility of the language. Brilliant or not, Shakespeare’s writing can be very difficult to follow, especially for the unaccustomed. Imagine this, combined with a labyrinthine plot, two sets of twins, both with the same names, twelve other written characters, and only five cast members. Sound confusing? It really is.
Certainly memorable, and certainly fun
The best way to enjoy it is to sit back and try not to follow every little thing – just let yourself be swept along by the likeable performers and trust that it’ll all work out in the end, even if you don’t know how. Or what exactly went wrong in the first place. This way, the sitcom-esque scenarios and episodic comedy routines can come into their own. Plus, the ‘wonderful live music’ genuinely is wonderful, with luxurious harmonies and adept musicianship blending to hint at a fireside atmosphere.
As for the audience interaction, there’s nothing quite like the innately English combination of thoroughly enjoying the embarrassment of the bald man the third row, who has become the butt of an unfortunate joke, while praying you won’t be next.
It’s certainly memorable, and certainly fun, and refreshingly, isn’t trying to be anything other than that. Maybe that does make it a good way to introduce your kids to Shakespeare (if you’re the kind of parent who feels the need to do so before they start picking it apart in class), but do warn them it might be a bit perplexing at first. Make that a lot perplexing at first. Just in case.