Lenny Henry has charmed the UK with his comedic timing and acting prowess for over 30 years. Currently he is entertaining audiences with his role in the National Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.
Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s first plays and a slap stick style comedy that focuses on the mistaken identities of two sets of twins, Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio of Ephesus. When I read the play I couldn’t help but giggle, however since the play involves a lot of physical comedy I was itching to see the production at the National Theatre.
I was delighted when I discovered Lenny Henry was playing Antipholus of Syracuse. I was over the moon, since I grew up watching Lenny Henry in Chef (Henry played a very driven talented master chef who ruled his kitchen!).
On Valentine’s Day I, along with my classmates, attended the evening show of Comedy of Errors. I sat in the large Oliver Theatre eagerly waiting for the production to start. A large set that resembled a warehouse greeted me, the sound of water dripping filled my ears and the full theatre buzzed with the murmurs of avid theatre goers. The production started with the dramatic scene of Egeon, the twin’s father, begging for his life.
This opening scene told me everything I needed to know about the production. The sound, lighting and set were all extremely well done. The warehouse turned into a ship, extras twirled around being sailors and fake emergency workers stormed the stage. Every part of that scene was enthralling and intoxicating. The speed and the quality of the play continued throughout.
One of my favorite aspects of this great production were the actors themselves. For Lenny Henry, Comedy of Errors was an excellent play for him to show his acting skills. The way Henry embodied the character and made it his own with the physical parts of the play, such as hitting Dromio, dancing, protecting himself from the evil witches and kneeling down to propose to Luciana, was excellent. His acting prowess was backed up by the supporting cast.
Out of the supporting cast the Dromio twin’s performances were excellent. Both of the actors brought a good pinch of sarcasm and comic timing to their parts. The Dromio twins created their own personalities for the parts as well. Dromio of Ephesus excelled at embodying the more snarky and pushy servant (he expressed this with his body language as well as by the way he delivered his lines) while Dromio of Syracuse was able to portray the more neurotic and panicked servant to a tee. The way he delivered his lines about the super natural aspects of the play, with just a touch of fear and over the top body language, was spot on.
Lastly Adrianna was quite brilliant. When reading Comedy of Errors I preferred Luciana’s character because she was level headed and calm, but in the National Theatre’s production the actress portraying Adrianna did such a great job of creating a complex and appealing character, that I preferred Adrianna. Adrianna did an astounding job of delivering her lines with a tone of longing for her husband with an equal tone of desperation and as Shakespeare would say sauciness
In Comedy of Errors there is a scene where Adrianna pleads for her husband affections. The National Theatre set this monologue in a pool hall and it was perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the production. Adrianna managed to combine desperation with Shakespeare sauciness.
At one point she threw her jacket off, leaped on the pool table and then clung to Antipholus of Syracuse (who is in fact not Adrianna’s husband but she has mistaken him since they are twins). Adrianna did all of this while showing that she, like any woman, loved and longed for her man, was not afraid to fight for what she wanted. The actress took a character I didn’t particularly like when reading the play and turned her into a strong, funny and enduring character that I truly did enjoy.
Even though that was my favorite scene, every scene in the play was well executed by the actors and thoroughly entertaining. Henry shines in his role and received the most laughs from the audience out of the actors, but it is truly a combination of the actors, the set, lighting and sound that made the National Theatre’s production of Comedy of Errors a great play that I would highly recommend for the lover of Shakespeare and for anyone looking for a night out full of stellar production value, laughs and true good old fashioned entertainment.
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare is on until 1st April 2012, priced from £26 for the Circle, rising to £45 for the best stalls. The performance on 1st March will be broadcast to selected cinemas around the UK. You can book tickets here.