Review: The Comedy of Errors – this knockabout Shakespeare tries too hard to please

By Lyn Gardner for The Guardian, 25 October 2015

Recent revivals of this play have often stressed the darker aspects of Shakespeare’s comedy of identical twins and mistaken identity. That was probably never going to happen with this pint-sized version of the play adapted by the NT’s deputy artistic director, Ben Power and intended for eight to 12-year-olds. It’s not quite sun, sea and sangria, but it’s largely a romp in Bijan Sheibani’s good-natured but sometimes laboured production. This is a play that is often at its funniest when it’s played deadpan.

There are some engaging performances, a fruitful dynamic in a production designed on the square with the audience on all four sides, and plenty of slapstick humour involving plastic pink flamingos and palm trees. But even the cartoon-style violence, while neatly done, reinforces the traditional servant-master relationships rather than questioning them for a young, contemporary audience. There’s a similar lack of thought in the portrayal of gender relationships and female characters, although Katie Elin-Salt makes a spirited Luciana.

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