Bell Shakespeare’s production of The Comedy of Errors arrives in Melbourne this week as part of its major national tour to 20 cities and regional centres across Australia in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory.
Due to be presented in 2020 but disrupted due to COVID, the company revives this vibrant and hilarious production that at its core is a beautiful and timely story about family reunion.
Directed by longtime Bell Shakespeare collaborator Janine Watson, the play is a comedic and heartfelt romp of swapped identities, misguided love, mistaken imprisonment, and chaotic mishap.
Set in the 1970s, a time in history when global tensions were sky high but was juxtaposed with social movements fighting for liberation and change, the production takes place over a 24-hour period in a colourful and hedonistic seaside land that feels as if anything can and will happen.
Two sets of twins who have been separated for decades strive to be brought back together, and as the dawn arises, all the threads come untangled, and the truth is revealed.
“The Comedy of Errors actually sets up incredibly high stakes from the very first moment with Egeon condemned to death,” said Director Janine Watson. “He’s searching for his two sets of twins and his wife, all torn apart in a terrible shipwreck three decades ago.”
The country he has come from and the country he lands in, in a last desperate attempt to find his family, are in deep conflict. He needs to raise a bond of $1000 for his life or perish. The scene is then set for a mad, desperate romp of mistaken identity, thwarted lovers and theatrical trickery.”
When the clock is set on Egeon’s life at the start of the play it sets a tone of urgency that propels the characters toward reunion as they race towards the resolution of the plot.
“Make no mistake – this production will be a fast paced and rollicking comedy, full of verbal wit and physical high jinx. But the characters are desperate for freedom, reunion, love – and that’s what we’ll keep at the heart of our show,” said Watson.
Gender fluidity has been explored amongst the characters, with the Dromio twins played by Julia Billington and Ella Prince, while the Antipholus twins will be portrayed by Felix Jozeps and Skyler Ellis. Joining them onstage will be Joseph Althouse, Giema Contini, Alex King, Leilani Loau, Lauren Richardson and Maitland Schnaars.
The creative team includes Set and Costume Designer Hugh O’Connor, Lighting Designer Kelsey Lee, Composer and Sound Designer Benjamin Pierpoint, Movement Director Samantha Chester, Voice and Text Coach Jess Chambers.
The Comedy of Errors plays Arts Centre Melbourne from 13 – 23 July, before heading to Horsham Town Hall (26 July), The Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool (28 July) and West Gippsland Arts Centre (30 July). For more information and touring schedule, visit: www.bellshakespeare.com.au for details.
Image: The Comedy of Errors – photo by Brett Boardman