Richard Clothier, John Dougall, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Sam Swainsbury, Richard Frame, Jon Trenchard, Robert Hands, Dave Newman, Wayne Cater, Thomas Padden, Chris Myles, Dominic Tighe, Kelsey Brookfield, Tony Bell
Being frisked by a cop in sunglasses and leather pants, who looks like a member of the Village
People, before you get to your seat, certainly brightens up a night at the theatre.|
So begins an evening with Propeller, Edward Hall’s all-male theatre company, who are touring
The Comedy of Errors in tandem with an ink-black Richard III.
Shakespeare’s tale of two sets of twins, separated by shipwreck, and the resulting mistaken identity
and confusion which occurs when their lives cross years later, was played with energy and enthusiasm by the
whole cast. The resulting production was a bit like trying to watch a Benny Hill sketch, a carnival and read a comic at the same time.
Lurid outfits abound (leopard print and gold wedges sported by wife Adriana, smiley t-shirts for
the Dromio twins, football shirts and Mexican hats elsewhere) and fairy lights festooned the stage,
setting the play somewhere in the 80s, with half an eye on South America.
It was no quiet affair either. Sound effects found their way into each scene by an ever present
and increasingly inventive bunch of mariachi. The rule of thumb seemed to be that if you’re not in
character, then stick on a sombrero, pick up a tambourine and add to the ‘Batman and Robin’ biffs,
dings and squeaks. The squeak, should you be interested, was reserved for the cop trying to walk in
his rather tight trousers. These sounds were used to punctuate the verse which helped to offset the increasing chaos. The
impeccable timing and skill of the actors also provided a welcome sense of order amidst the madness.
Sam Swainsbury’s Antipholus was a highlight. His interaction with an incessantly buzzing doorbell
was not without comparison to Basil Fawlty’s run in with a tree branch and a car that won’t start.
His rant on the confusion he had suffered that day was perfectly delivered and littered with
verbal ‘dings’ and ‘squeaks’ as he did the sound effects team out of a job. His brother, played by
Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, was the calmer of the two but had great sparring ability with his Dromio twin
servant: Richard Frame.
Female characters were larger than life. From a melodramatic Robert Hands as Adriana, to
the ‘demure on the outside but packs a punch’ (quite literally), Luciana (Adriana’s sister) played
hilariously by Dave Newman, you would think all bases would be covered. But no, they added to the
mix a foxy, fetish-styled courtesan, a whip-wielding abbess and an unseen spherical kitchen maid
who was in lust with one (or both) of the Dromio twins.
In the midst of all this madness, Jon Trenchard’s Dromio gained some of the only sympathy in the
show. A pantomime of ‘aws’ from the audience ensued as he reeled off the beatings he’d received.
Our compassion, though, was quickly replaced by laughter as we watched him take a knockout blow
to the head.
Fast-paced and hilarious, they even make use of the interval for more lunacy: make sure you take
up their invite to hear some music. I promise you, you will never listen to Madonna in the same way
Propeller will be touring both The Comedy of Errors and Richard III throughout the UK, concluding at Hampstead Theatre, London, in June 2011. For tour dates and further information, visit: Propeller.org.uk
- Linda Jameson
The Comedy of Errors, Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Richard III, Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
Matilda, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Inheritance, Live Theatre, Newcastle
Beautiful Burnout, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Love,Love,Love, Royal Exchange, Manchester
The Cherry Orchard, Birmingham Rep, Birmingham
A Month in the Country, Festival Theatre, Chichester