Wednesday, 30 June 2010
The Comedy of Errors at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Ahh, the Open Air Theatre. Ahh, theatre trips with your sister. Ahh, the joy of an unfamiliar Shakespeare comedy. Ahh, summer pleasures.
I don't know The Comedy of Errors. At all.
Turns out, it's hilarious. And not just in that imagine-these-ancient-jokes-being-funny-once kind of way that Shakespeare sometimes is. This felt really funny *now*. I know slapstick and visual comedy of one sort or another will always tickle funny bones. Ditto for gratuitous gorilla suits (file under "Never Not Funny"). But there are moments in the text that really sparkle for me too: Dromio's talking about the fat maid being like a map of the world could've almost been part of a Jimmy Carr sketch, somehow. And riffed nicely with the current World Cupish kind of foreigner stereotyping we'll be enduring until 11 July.
After dwelling on the show, I realise I also love Daniel Weyman's Antipholis of Syracuse. In a slightly silly way, I'll confess he reminds me of MC from school's Demetrius. It's an incredibly measured performance, building brilliantly from excited naivety to slight bemusement, to cheeky confusion, to pure bewilderment, to utter incomprehension. If he moved too soon at any point, the perfect arc of the show's comic tension would spoil. But he doesn't. Top notch.
I also love the way shows at the Open Air Theatre go for the playful, the magical, the theatrical. It's been the case in most of the things I've seen there recently. As well as a heavy dose of class and quality, everything seems to be dusted with an air of the "wonderful", in the real sense of the word.
They're full of wonder.
There's just something classic about a group of people, forming a tail behind a leader, reacting as one to a percieved threat. In his review, Charles Spencer (who hates everything I like about TCofE, including Shakespeare's story, and likes everything I don't) tired of what he regarded as the "Keystone Kops" routines. A and I, relishing the childish wonder of seeing this kind of tableau working perfectly, compare it to The Enormous Turnip, and file this sort of thing in that "Never Not Funny" drawer.
And the Open Air Theatre's actors, with their audience in daylight for at least half of the show, also seem to have perfected the "cheeky glance to the audience" to a tee. Both Dromios execute this perfectly, as do several other members of the cast. And it has me on the edge of my seat every time. Feeling their frustrations. Laughing at their expressions. *In* the play. Captivated.
It's something that I think The Globe could learn from, to be honest. (Gasp as ZJG seems to suggest something at The Globe could be improved!) Slick moments of 21st-century audience interaction seem so much more successful at the Open Air Theatre - why? Is it because these guys are on your level? Somehow feel closer? Who knows.
Anyway, I loved it. And cried at the end, which does reveal the play's aching heart, despite what Mr Spencer would have you think. And I reviewed it for londonist and for work, if you want to read more.