A selection of past productions of The Comedy of Errors
Shakespeare's shortest play has been performed several times since Russian director Theodor Komisarjevsky put it on the theatrical map in 1938 Stratford-upon-Avon.
Nancy Meckler (2005)
Aegeon's lengthy explanation of his predicament was enlivened in this production with puppets representing the two sets of twins. Katriona Lindsay's brightly-coloured clothing designs were brought to life with carnivalesque animation and eclecticism while the set resembled a shipwreck with its broken masts and torn sails.
Lynne Parker (2000)
High energy and an endless sequence of gags characterised this production. The plot unfolded clearly enough despite the potentially distracting profusion of comic business, references to music-hall jokes and allusions to slapstick movies. One riotous chase managed to collect characters from the production of Henry IV Part I, playing in the Swan Theatre on the other side of the stage wall! Dr Pinch was a voodoo witch-doctor and one of the merchants was a sabre-waving Cossack. David Tennant played Antipholus of Syracuse (see photo).
Tim Supple (1996)
The intimate space of The Other Place's studio theatre allowed the actors to play their roles more subtly than is always possible in Stratford's large main house. The director chose not to prioritise physical comedy over emotional truth to achieve a thoughtful and moving study of identity and personal relationships.
Ian Judge (1990)
A large Desmond Barrit played both Antipholuses and a lean Graham Turner both Dromios in this production. Inevitably this caused problems at the end when all four must be on-stage together. The introduction of doubles at that point, standing with their backs to the audience, felt unsatisfying since, all along, the play has been assiduously whetting the audience's appetite to see the full set of brothers meet at last. This Ephesus was a surrealist technicoloured dream world, with bright stylised costumes and props such as a huge Dali-esque sofa in the shape of huge red lips on which the sisters first appeared through a trap door. The geometric black and white patterning on the stage floor played appropriately optical illusions on the audience's eyes.
Adrian Noble (1983)
The action unfolded here in a zany circus world, where the Antipholuses were easily confused, not only because they dressed alike (as is the norm) but more importantly here, they both had blue faces. Their Dromios had garish check suits, clown faces and red noses, while Luciana had a white face, with sparkling pantaloons and an upright swirl of orange hair (see photo above). Much was demanded of the actors in the way of acrobatics and physical comedy as they swung, climbed and bicycled their way across the stage.
Trevor Nunn (1976)
This was another production which generated extra energy with the addition of music and song, composed by Guy Woolfenden. Set in a stylised modern-day Mediterranean tourist trap, the action veered from one inventive gag to the next but the quality of the acting ensured that the nuances of the language were not lost. There was a particularly outrageous portrayal of an inebriated Dr Pinch (played by Robin Ellis) while Judi Dench excelled as an Adriana driven to the bottle by her husband's neglect. The production's high energy success was recorded on film.
Clifford Williams (1962)
This production was staged at short notice to cover a gap in the schedules and it was so successful that it ran on and off for 10 years. The superb ensemble playing of the company, intelligent verse speaking, physical skill and the perfect mix of comedy and pathos made this one of the most memorable of productions.
Theodor Komisarjevsky (1938)
The Russian director introduced music from Handel and Anthony Bernard into this hugely successful and influential production, in which Shakespeare's comedy was put firmly back on the theatrical map. Ephesus was a busy, brightly-coloured Toytown, with hump-backed bridges, street lanterns, shop signs and a tall clock tower (sometimes possessed of a mind of its own). The colourful characters were dressed in a dazzling range of different styles and many of the men had bowler hats of different colours.
A full list of RSC productions with details of cast and production team can be found in the RSC Performance Database on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website.