At The Barbican Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company has reimagined this 400-year-old comedy for traditional lovers of his works (with the original dialogue) and for modern audiences, whilst retaining the hilarious comedy of a farce that is The Comedy of Errors. I had the delight of watching the show in the beginning of December, with my school, as this clever reworking inspires young and old audiences to come and watch more excellent Shakespeare pieces performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company or any other performances at The Barbican.

A short plot summary,

The Comedy of Errors is about mistaken identity with two sets of twins. Egeon and his wife have their identical twin boys for whom he bought another pair of identical twin boys to be their servants. During a shipwreck, the couple are separated each taking one twin son and one twin servant. The father has named the two boys their identical twin’s name in the hopes of reuniting them (Antipholus and Dromio). This sets up the play as each brother is confused for the other and the mishaps this creates from a confused wife, to a stolen chain and false imprisonment.

As someone who much prefers traditional Shakespeare, performing as close to the original as possible, (such as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men) I had no expectation that I would enjoy a more abstract interpretation. However, the stylish costumes and ingenious props filled with so much diverse culture and modernised comedy was brilliant. The set was minimalistic, blue geometrics shaped the main box of the stage and acted as the ocean, while the blocky walls opened in the middle for the Abbey. The best feature of The Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Comedy of Errors was its inclusivity, including captioned and audio described performances.

Of course, the main characters were also phenomenally comical. Naomi Sheldon played Andrianna- Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife. Every moment she was on stage cackled laughter from the audience as she acted as the insanely hysterical and jealous wife- the passive aggressive tone switching to full outcries. Avita Jay was equally talented as Lucina. Usually, I have found the sister too mild or is heavily exaggerated however, here I believe they have interpreted the character to have wit and grace. Avita used her greatest comical ability in the proposal scene and with the yoga.

Antipholus of Syracuse is the brother coming to Ephesus to find his long lost twin and mother. Whenever Guy Lewis was believing the mishaps as a dream his maddening attitude to the harpies was absolutely hilarious; especially during the physical reoccurring gag of the hand-sanitiser that even sprayed out at the audience: a perfect modern addition poking fun. Dromio of Syracuse, Johnathon Broadbent, had the most comical scene about Dromio of Ephesus’s wife. Obviously Shakespeare is old and some of the jokes will never carry across, however, the comedy of Dromio comparing his twin’s wife’s body to different countries disliked in Elizabethan times, made fun of the 400 year old jokes, interacting with the audience like a stand-up comedy sketch, egged on by Dromio- a genius way to act a piece of potentially dry comedy. Antipholus of Ephesus (Rowan Polonksi) is the upstanding brother who is high in the reputation of Ephesus. This makes his madness all the more laughable. With the incredibly physical comedy of Antipholus fighting with the guard around the stage, as this insane monster crawling across the floor. Dromio of Ephesus, Greg Haiste, getting more angry throughout the play from the undeserved beatings, involving him losing it, as he jumps around venting into a microphone.

In traditional Shakespeare plays, a chorus will come on after each scene singing and dancing. This element was not lost with the narrators carrying round the mics, a sound scape of “1 and 2”s creating acapella music to enhance key moments, their voices were a beautiful touch and it was such a cool and modern tribute to Shakespeare that I did not expect. A clever moment with both Dromios is the split scene with the door and both Dromios arguing with each of them believing they are each the imposter- a clever play with words and physical comedy with the mics. This is because this modern edition chose to have no building set or elaborate props. Standout comedic moments must equally go to barber’s balding sketch with Dromio and Antipholus of Syracuse - and the reoccurring gag of the hapless guard with his chair. However, some changes I disliked was the interpretation of the ending with the characters standing blank at the back but the joining of the two Dromios was heart-warming and beautifully executed. The funniest supporting characters of the farce was Balthasar and his bodyguard, his exaggerated mime was the best physical jokes of the play, particularly erupting laughter as he mimed the beheading of the Duke, with the guard just remarking unphased.

Though true to the original productions will always be my favourite, and even though I have seen The Comedy Of Errors performed before, this modern adaptation was like a different show. Credit must be due the inventive and intelligent creators behind the show (such as director Phillip Breen) not just the performers who brought this Shakespearean comedy to a new life. Read the synopsis, view the trailer and photos but come and watch this marvel of contemporary Shakespeare!