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The Comedy of Errors – Sprite Productions Ripley Castle

Last Wednesday evening saw the very welcome return of Sprite Productions with their production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.

I have to admit I am not very familiar with the play so had no preconceived ideas on production, performance or indeed what it was about, apart from the fact that it was a comedy, the clue being in the title!

Briefly the story concerns two sets of identical twins, accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio who arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio. Given this scenario it is not surprising that mayhem, mistaken identity and knock about comedy follows.

The play got off to a cracking start in the encampment of a a 1920s travelling circus, and this theme worked very well throughout as the audience processed from scene to scene through the woods where there were glimpses of jugglers, high wire artists, clowns and even a bearded lady! Also the colourful, manic atmosphere of circus life emphasises the continuing cases of mistaken identity producing hilarious scenes between master and servant as they meet their opposite numbers without realising.

One of the funniest scenes has Dromio of Syracuse, describing to his master a woman he is supposed to be courting, having been mistaken for his twin Dromio of Ephesus, as ‘the kitchen wench and all grease;’ and ‘she is spherical, like a globe’.

The comedy didn’t stop during the interval, which took place in the big top as we finished our sandwiches and wine, with a wonderful piece of audience participation with a circus performer, ladder, bucket and a hapless ‘volunteer’ involved in a ‘death defying feat’.

It would be nigh impossible to single out any one actor from this performance as they were all excellent, but the two Dromios played by Michael Shelford and Philip Langhorne were marvelous and by the end of the play it was hard to tell that they weren’t actually ‘twins’.

Director Charlotte Bennett and designer Anna Gooch are to be congratulated for their idea of using a circus background for the play which certainly worked.

Comedy of Errors is on until July 14 so make sure you don’t miss it, and we look forward to next year when Sprite Productions will be celebrating their 10th performance at Ripley Castle.