Bard on the Beach

A Comedy Of Errors by William Shakespeare-
Performed at the Bard on the Beach Festival, Vancouver BC. 

Here we have two sets of identical twins who have been separated, and as each set of siblings find themselves on the same island, a tale of confusion and mistaken identities ensues. Despite being Shakespeare’s shortest play, A Comedy Of Errors does not lack the high paced and chaotic energies that power that of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night. However, the natural madness of the play did not appear to be satisfying enough for director: Scott Bellis. He added quirks to each of the characters, which to me added a refreshing taste to the play without spoiling the timeless comedy of the spoken word. For example, Dromio of Syracuse travelled round the set on a wooden scooter, which encouraged a plethora of physical and slapstick style comedy, which of course coincided perfectly with the script, and provided light relief and change of tone between the moments of long monologues and detailed speeches. Additionally, possibly the greatest adaptation to the piece was the interpretation and development of characters Nell and Maud. Both were transformed from characters that barely appear in the limelight to such highly physical presences on stage that the humour was directed at them for the entirety of the play. With their clown like provocative physicality teamed with the ridiculous voices, these characters (played by Andrew McNee & Daniel Doheny) were an incredible addition to the play adding jest and light relief throughout. The physical humour and fierce character development was a fantastic way to create a more accessible version of a classic Shakespearean comedy, without altering the original work.

The majority of Bellis’ decisions as director appeared well developed and considered. Nevertheless, something which I felt needed much more work was the overall concept of the play. It had clearly been inspired by a Victorian Steampunk aesthetic, and had disjointed moments of nightmarish scenes including zombie like characters. This played out well to me, allowing for both moments of humour and darker substance. Although, the entire set was built to look like a machine of some sort, which was controlled and maintained by minor characters throughout, this conceptual factor was rendered partially unnecessary and seemed arguable lost for significant meaning. Nonetheless, the overall aesthetic was pleasing to the audience and physically challenging in some manners for the performers.

The undoubtedly unsung hero of the play had to be Choreographer, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. The standards of rehearsal and time that had been spent on perfecting the movement of the characters, both as individuals and in relation to one another, was what assured that the piece was so slick, adhering to its farsical structure. For instance, the two Dromio characters (played by Luisa Jojic and Dawn Petten)  resembled each other’s physicality and movement impeccably, and at times I found myself desperately trying to decipher which person I was watching on stage! This was also applicable to the Antipholus characters. This attention to detail created a much more believable performance which evoked confusion based hilarity that were unmistakable of a Shakespearean Comedy.

The Bard on the Beach Festival, based in Vancouver, BC is evidence that Shakespeare can travel the world and still bring people together to laugh, to learn, and to enjoy his timeless works, revelling  in the lighthearted comedy of this well-loved play.

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