Any attempt to stage The Comedy of Errors with any sense of classical reverence is doomed. This production didn't make that mistake. Enjoyably larky, and set alongside a Turkish newsstand selling fags and fezes, it had a panto feel, with Turkish costumes, commedia masks and a jazzy score.
You also got two entertainments for the price of one. Taking his cue from the dark arts referred to in the play (the setting, Ephesus, is "a town full of cozenage", stuffed with witches, spells and spooks), John Bell, the director, included an ongoing act by a Middle Eastern version of Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. The tricks were great fun. The illusionist Ross Skiffington also doubled up as the exorcist, Dr Pinch.
The plot, pinched from Plautus, is simple. A man arrives in a town unaware that his twin brother is living there. The same goes for the brothers' twin servants (both called Dromio), a pair of slapstick artists. The errors escalate as everyone confuses the two sets of twins. It is one of the joys of the play that everybody is convinced of the insanity of everybody else. Cue double takes, marital rows and looks of slack-jawed grievance as the denials pile up.
The Antophiluses, Christopher Stollery and Sean O'Shea, were both excellent. So, too, were the womenfolk, caught up in the cat's cradle of mistaken identities. Blazey Best's sexy, exasperated Adriana, verbally roasting her husband while leafing through a fashion mag, was a treat.
There was a price to pay, though, for the breathless levity of the recognition scenes in which the twins finally encountered each other. It is a powerful scene, as the grief and sorrow of separation washes away in a wave of understanding and consolation. Here, the tying up of plot strands was played for laughs.
But the general tone was spot-on and came with a refreshing New World irreverence - a few "G'days" were chucked into a production that occasionally went off-piste. This company's abundant supply of comic fizz ensured that they got away with it.Reuse content