JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE COMEDY OF ERRORS at the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 30.6.14.
3 stars ***
AS THE AUDIENCE GATHERED, ominous drops of rain spattered from a louring sky, and a stage manager plied her mop. The Bard In The Botanics season has a strange kind of luck, though; and on Saturday night, the rains drifted away, allowing Gordon Barr’s riotous 12-strong company – dressed in day-glo green and tartan, with bad fake tans – to romp through a full performance of their wild and woolly take on Shakespeare’s early comedy about long-lost identical twins who are mistaken for one another, creating endless misunderstandings.
As ever, Barr’s gifted company are not short of bright ideas on bringing new life to Shakespeare. Here, the city of Ephesus is re-framed as a gung-ho independent Scotland governed by a lady duke in a smart tartan suit; and I’ve never seen a production that tackled Shakespeare’s endless punning comedy so boldly, drawing the audience into the verbal battle between Robert Elkin’s Dromio of Syracuse and various adversaries like the crowd at a rap slam.
In the end, though, all this production’s assets simply disappear into a frenzy of over-acting, with almost everyone on stage mugging, gurning, twitching, writhing and yelling as if everything mattered, except the meaning and rhythm of the words. The Comedy Of Errors is not Shakespeare’s finest play, nor does it contain his best poetry. It has its moments, though; and they can’t be given their full weight in a production so preoccupied with its own feeble jokes and exaggerated comic business – even if there is a fine choral rendition of The Proclaimers’ I’m On My Way to round off the evening, and send us home happy.