Thursday, July 17, 2014


Groundlings Theatre Company at the Rose, Bankside

Praetorius on the soundtrack, and the Rose's already limited acting space half-filled with battered trunks and suitcases. Who was F J G GILL, and what would he think to see his luggage gracing the ancient boards of Bankside's earliest playhouse ? The boxes and the other baggage are creatively used here, setting scenes and concealing characters.
The Groundlings are based in Portsmouth – they offer training as well as producing their own shows. This pocket-sized comedy was first seen in their own heritage theatre near Gunwharf Quays. Six actors, eighty minutes, and a hectic canter through the comedy from the sea voyage to the farcical finale, where audience members are pressed into performing as the alter egos of Antipholus and his “man” Dromio.
Richard Stride's production has many happy moments amongst the box shifting: Mark Flynn's callow Antipholus doting on Emma Uden's bespectacled, russet-haired Luciana, the Dromios farting at the door, and the puppets-in-a-box for the Abbess and Egeon [Stuart Frank, who also gives us a memorable courtesan, and Oliver Gyani who makes a nicely anxious Goldsmith and an imposing Dr Pinch, with his phial sloshing ominously]. Anna Mallard, with huge hair, paces impatiently and speaks the verse impeccably.
Poor old Dromio bears the brunt of the mistaken identities as man and master “wander in illusion”. He's played in a green roly-poly suit by Helen Oakleigh – an excellent match, you'd think, for the greasy kitchen wench. Bags of energy, if too much on the same note for my taste.
This is reduced Shakespeare, of course, and works well in this largely traditional take, with its Elizabethan costumes and period music. The wordy dénouement could perhaps have been trimmed further, bringing us a little earlier to the lively jig.

The Comedy of Errors plays until July 27, in tandem with the Groundlings' Henry V: Oakleigh directs this time, with Stride as the hero of Agincourt.

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