To the National to see The Comedy of Errors starring Lenny Henry as Antipholus of Syracuse. It's a rip roaring production played out with enough chutzpah and sense of fun to give even the most cynical theatre goer a good night out.
Director Dominic Cooke sets the play in a composite place somewhere between the West Indies, North Africa and Mediterranean Europe. He has a Romanian band thrown in for good measure. The openning section where the Syracusean merchant Egeon lays out the back story uses the full glories of Bunny Christie's inventive set, to create a vast poetic story board. A visual trailer for what's to come.
And what's to come is very good with Henry, who won rave reviews for his Othello a couple of years ago, revelling in the comedy. He has presence, a sense of ease with the language, great timing and, of course an anarchic spirit of irreverence. It made me wonder why we don't encourage more of our stand up comedians to take the comic roles in Shakespeare. Rickie Gervais as the Porter ? Frankie Boyle as Lear's fool? Paul Merton as Touchstone? or even Tim Minchin as Feste? If it hasn't hasn't already happened I'm sure it won't be long before James Cordon is offered Bottom. It just makes sense to put audience pleasing specialists into these roles.
Elsewhere there is some marvellous support from Chris Jarman as the other Antipholus, Lucian Msamati and Daniel Poyser as the Dromios and stealing little moments, the wonderful Claudie Blakley and Michelle Terry as tottering wag-esque sisters Adriana and Luciana.
This isn't a show that reclaims or reinterprets the play for our times. In many ways Cooke's production is a classic rendering. It doesn't half leave you with a smile on your face though. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.