The Comedy Of Errors, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

3.00

On a bare white stage, in a minimalist production with the merest glimpses of Ephesian street-life, The Comedy of Errors could scarcely be delivered more freshly. It's cool rather than carnivalesque. The director, Roxana Silbert, whose experience, most recently at Paines Plough, lies mainly in new writing, has approached her first Shakespeare production with no obvious concerns as to how to "reinvent" the play. Her aim seems to be to pare it down to its most accessible. If you expect an associate director of the RSC to apply weighty interpretation, it's worth remembering that Silbert's brief at Stratford involves new drama rather than reimagining Shakespeare.

This Epheseus is timeless but in applying a flavour of the Ottoman Empire, Silbert has given it a contemporary slant without modernising it. The odd word may be changed, and even cut – at just over an hour and a half with no interval, both narrative and action are tightly paced – but the sense of exuberance and mystery in this early Shakespeare play is left firmly intact. The problem lies more in the fact that, in trying to reflect the multi-cultural society of the Turkish trading port, Silbert has assembled a multi-national company in which a melting pot of accents makes it difficult to pick up enough words.

Immediately after the god-like descent of Munir Khairdin's enthroned and lavishly robed Duke, Egeon's long speech about his lost children ought to draw the audience straight into the intrigue and confusion at the heart of the comedy. Even in the hands of the experienced Fred Ridgeway as Egeon, it's not always easy to follow the solemn tale of his sad quest. The words of those in several smaller roles, all deftly acted, are even harder to decipher. Bold though Silbert has been in her concept and casting, the focus surely has to be on the coherency and lucidity of the language. Only Jan Chappell as a grotesque Doctor Pinch and a purposeful Abbess is beyond reproach in her natural speaking rhythm.

When the comedy gets going, the delightful and often dizzying absurdities of having two sets of twins and a whole series of mistaken identities is skilfully handled. Sam Collings's Antipholus of Syracuse has an elfish appearance that fits well with his willingness to go along with everything that's offered to him. He's good too at expressing his subsequent alarm at being in a place where everyone appears to know him but he knows no one. Jack Farthing, his twin Antipholus of Epheseus, gives an urbane gloss to the husband locked out of his own home by his wife (a striking Orla Fitgerald) and later arrested.

In casting two sets of twins, Silbert has gone for actors of similar height and build and it works, especially with Michael Jibson's earnest Syracusan Dromio and Owain Arthur's Welsh-tinged Ephesian Dromio. Their bewildered reactions to the unreality of the situation and, eventually, to their discovery of each other, is artfully portrayed. Making both of them subject to panic attacks is a witty touch.

Luxurious textiles and rich colours are given a modern cut, resulting in costumes with a chic, designer look. McQueen and Westwood have been cited as influences by Silbert and in the combinations of checked plaid with its whiff of punk, of boldly cut patterns and fabulous materials, Anthony MacIlwaine has turned old styles into a riot of visually arresting and entertaining apparel. The use of perspex – making the central door scene visible to all in the in-the-round setting – and the subtle appliance of a revolve is effective. However, the clunky tilting of the stage is an unnecessary intrusion at the end of an amusing and absorbing piece of theatre.

To 8 May (0161 833 9833)

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin