Miles Gregory, the visionary founder of Pop-up Globe, counts The Comedy of Errors among his favourite Shakespeare plays and his exuberant production of this often-overlooked work embodies the joyous spirit that has made the Pop-up such a hit.
The play pushes mistaken identity to such absurd extremes that a bond is forged between the audience and the players, who are united in yearning to be free from a world ruled by chaos and confusion.
The wilfully implausible plot can almost be ignored; all you need to know is that a pair of identical twin brothers and their servants, who also happen to be twins, were separated at birth and several decades later find themselves together in the small Turkish/Greek city of Ephesus.
The ensuing mayhem plunges us into a series of stock comedy situations with bombastic masters victimising insubordinate servants, ardent lovers spurned by their beloved, tradesmen cheated of their wages and quack-doctors imposing outrageous treatments on unwilling patients.
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The comedy inherent in these scenarios expands exponentially with the addition of a double-dose of mistaken identity and director Gregory treats each episode as a set-piece for bravado display of buffoonery.
Highlights include an enraged husband leading his mates in an assault on the barred gates of his home and a troupe of whirling dervishes joining with a bemused belly-dancer in a wildly deranged chase sequence.
There are hilariously over-the-top performances from the twin servants, played by Blake Kubena and Tom Clarke, while Paul Jennings and Jason Will as the twin Antipholuses rise to heights of mind-bending exasperation at constantly being mistaken for someone else.
Among a quality cast Stephen Lovett stands out for the precisions of his gestures, and the comedy is enhanced by onstage musicians and a costume design that resembles an Oriental-themed fancy-dress ball — updated with Isis-style public executions.
What: The Comedy of Errors
Where & when: Pop-up Globe, Ellerslie Racecourse to April 1
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton