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Review: The Comedy of Errors

Local children take to the stage in the RSC's new First Encounters with Shakespeare production combining the floss, yoga and some frenetic family fun.

Young people from Nelson Mandela Primary School, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, with the Company. Production photos by Sam Allard.

How many Shakespeare productions combine dance craze ‘the floss’, high-speed stage chases, yoga and scene-stealing performances by local children?

There’s lots for young audiences, and their grown-ups, to enjoy in this lively 90-minute long new RSC First Encounters with Shakespeare comedy for 7 – 13-year-olds, currently touring schools and theatres across the UK.

Alex Thorpe, who previously worked as assistant/associate director on well-received RSC productions, The Two Noble KinsmenVolpone, The Jew of Malta and The Seven Acts of Mercy, directs a talented gender-equal cast of eight RSC actors and actor-musicians.

Brothers-in-arms: the two Antiphlus’s – left Nicholas Karimi and right Hasan Dixon. Photo by Sam Allard.

Separated at birth the Antipholus twins – Hasan Dixon and Nicholas Karimi – are suitably confused in this zany slapstick comedy of mistaken identity; as are their hilariously infectious Northern twin servants – Lewis Griffin and Thomas Pickles. “Am I in earth, heaven or in hell?” asks Antipholus of Syracuse – a line that sums up his predicament so concisely after discovering he has a wife he’s never seen before, then falls for her sister!

Seeing double: Dromio of Ephesus – Lewis Griffin

Dromio of Syracuse -Thomas Pickles

Created with several partner schools and theatres across the country it’s engaging and energetic from start with actors interacting with the audience and some lovely physical comedy, including an amusing yoga routine by sisters Luciana (Arunhan Galieva) and Adriana (Rhiannon Hardy). A double-bass is also wittily transformed into a woman.

Namaste: Luciana – Aruhan Galieva – in mid-yoga pose

I was joined by my nine-year-old at a 10.15am public performance in The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, this weekend who giggled her way through the performance, occasionally whispering: ‘what’s happening now, mum?’, but fully embracing the silliness.

Memorably, local children perform alongside the cast in the opening scene and in a brilliant panto-like move a young boy in the audience was plucked live to play an ‘officer’. Kids will love watching the actors pretend to rewind to where they’d left off, after he’d learnt his line!

Rhiannon Handy’s rather irate Adriana

For many children, this will be their very first experience of seeing and performing in a Shakespeare play, so understanding the language can be the first hurdle. This is a great way to discover the bard in a relaxed family-friendly setting. A skilful, fast-paced production with actors literally hurtling across the stage at high speed and ending on a thoughtful, touching note.

The Comedy of Errors  is touring Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Bishop Auckland, Kent, Hull, York, Bradford and Stoke-on-Trent until Dec 7. Find a venue near you here: rsc

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