Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Comedy of Errors (Preview) 22nd November 2011

Who is in it? Lenny Henry, Claudie Blakley, Chris Jarman, Lucian Msasmati, Amit Shah. Michelle Terry, Daniel Poyser and Rene Zagger
Where did you see it? Olivier, National Theatre

For a first preview I think I made more mistakes than the cast, for some inexplicable reason (tiredness? I do have a proper job and everything believe it or not) I thought E came before G in the alphabet (My name has no Fs in so I don't register it) and sat in the wrong seat for about 15 minutes before the beginning. Such a fool.
Claudie Blakley (Adriana) and Lenny Henry (Antipholus of Syracuse)

In terms of audience this preview seemed to attract the rudest, most ignorant people. Next to me were two Japanese tourists. I think they both found the language a bit difficult, it is Shakespeare after all, so spent the whole play playing with their phone. They ignored the usher, either out of rudeness or they didn't understand. Is that behaviour acceptable in any theatre or is it just us British that get a bit angsty over mobile phones in theatres? THEN I had the most annoying family (I say family they all called each other by their first names but I can so imagine hemp wearing modern families doing that) who didn't understand what was going (and were British and English speakers so no excuse) and had to keep explaining to each other what Lenny Henry was doing.

Now I am not blaming Lenny Henry for attracting those sorts of audiences. I doubt Lenny has a big Japanese following and the children were about 12 and 16, does anyone under 21 know who Lenny Henry is? The issue is maybe a National thing. Cheap tickets and the inability to throw people out mean rude audiences will occur but hopefully not too frequently.

The play itself? Fabulous. I only went because I hadn't been to the theatre for a couple of weeks and Entry Pass tickets were released for the early previews. I didn't have high expectations because it wasn't a play I was familiar with and whilst I had heard good things about Lenny Henry (who won the Evening Standard Best Newcomer award) but I wasn't that excited about it. The play is about two sets of twins, who become separated. Antipholus and  and his Dromio of Syracuse set out to find their Ephesus counterparts and the confusion that arises from their arrival.

Lucian Msamati (Dromio of Syracuse) and Lenny Henry (Antipholus of Syracuse)
Henry is excellent as Antipholus of Syracuse and as a comedian in his natural home, as opposed to his Othello but Jarman (the more experience Shakesperian actor playing Antipholus of Ephesus) of the two is more straight, more serious and thus quite unlikeable. Claudie Blakley and Michelle Terry are the stand out performances as Adriana (Antipholus of Ephesus's wife, who finds herself "dining" with both twins) and Luciana, Adrianna's twin. They play them as TOWIE-esque new money, all high heels and short dresses but it works brilliantly. I now want to see Shakespeare done by Essex only actors but it works so well. I would argue the double act of Blakley and Terry rivals Henry and Lucian Msamati (Dromio of Syracuse) for theatrical double act of year (even beating Alex Jennings and Simon Russell Beale in Collaborators).
Grace Thurgood (Courtesan), Claudie Blakley (Adriana, wife to Antipholus of Ephesus) and Michelle Terry (Luciana, her sister

I think the play's strength is its wonderful set (has there ever been a rubbish set at the National) and strong performances. Comedies are damn hard and this play pulls it off wonderfully.

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