When The Comedy of Errors actor Hedydd Dylan told Director Phillip Breen she was pregnant, he worked it into the show, adding a fascinating extra dimension to Hedydd's character, Adrianna.
Hedydd describes her role in the production: “Adrianna is Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife. There are clues in the script to suggest that she’s the money in their relationship, so I’m a pretty high status wealthy character. Antipholus’s status and respectability is brought into question constantly in the play and it almost deliberately plays on the insecurity of him not being born into money. It’s often the other way around, so there’s quite an interesting dynamic with the woman bringing the social clout.
“In our production she’s a vampy 80s blonde bombshell. She’s very intelligent, she’s quick-witted. She’s quick to temper, quick to emotion – she’s a very passionate character."
Director Phillip Breen hadn’t considered a pregnant Adrianna before rehearsals, but when Hedydd told him her news, he discussed the idea with her and Designer Max Jones.
Phillip says: "We thought it worked rather well. Antipholus and Adrianna have only been married around 18 months and it accounts for some of the complexities in their relationship but also their great bond and gives an added dimension to the family reunion at the end of the play."
Hedydd adds: “It certainly raises the stakes on her relationship with Antipholus. I think from being pregnant myself and having talked to a lot of my friends going through the early stages of pregnancy, it’s not all kind of roses and excitement. It feels quite scary at times. And particularly for men, they feel like suddenly they have to become providers and try to rise to the challenge of that new responsibility. It comes with a lot of preconceptions of what a parent is and what a good dad is.
“In our production it’s really interesting that we meet the couple at a point where their relationship is a little bit fraught, even before the misunderstandings start arising. Antipholus has been weird for a week or so and he’s late for dinner - there’s already some tension between them. The pregnancy gives it a really interesting and rich psychological dimension that only adds to it.”
At the end of the play, when the families are reunited, Adrianna’s pregnancy adds a further dimension. Antipholus’s parents never saw him grow up, but they will be part of his child’s life from the beginning.
His mother, Aemilia, says: ‘After so long grief, such nativity!’ The line refers to the celebrations they can have after years apart, but with a new life on its way it has extra resonance.
Hedydd explains: “The two of them rediscover their love for each other at the end of the play in spite of everything. With him being reunited with his family and remembering that he’s about to start his own family, the pieces get put together again. It’s such a beautiful ending."
Acting through pregnancy
Hedydd is expecting her first child in early December, so her pregnancy bump is currently part of her costume, a part that she’s unlikely to need later in the run.
The actor will play Adrianna for the show’s Stratford run and go on tour, when another actor will be brought in to job share the role, eventually taking over when Hedydd goes on maternity leave and the show transfers to the Barbican in December.
Hedydd talks about telling the company that she was pregnant: “I was very nervous about it, but they were so lovely from the beginning.
“The overwhelming feeling for me is just gratitude that I’m able to work. I was worried that I might have to step down from this production, but Phil got immediately on board with it and was excited about it as was the whole of the RSC.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to experience such wonderful support. I’ve had friends who have lost jobs because of pregnancy. Our industry is by no means perfect yet, but I’m being so well looked after and it’s an incredible feeling to be creative and be pregnant.”
The Comedy of Errors is now playing in the Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. It goes on a UK tour in October before transferring to the Barbican from 16 November.