Monday, May 23, 2005

'Journey's End' and 'Comedy of Errors'

Quite a cultural weekend this, attending as I did two plays in as many days. Heaven really.

The first was First Worls War play 'Journey's End' at the Sheffield Lyceum - it's on tour now, but this is the production that got rave reviews in London and I can certainly see why. The cast is extremely strong and there was certainly not a single duff performance this evening. The cook, Mason was really very blackly funny - reminiscent of the leader of the firing squad in Blackadder which can't be a bad thing. Officer Osbourne, or Uncle as he is known to the other men, is a wonderful character - warm and completely understanding of how everyone else feels. One of the other officers finds it funny that Osbourne is reading 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', and laughs when he reads the 'He doth the little crocodile..' poem. 'What's the point in that?!' he asks. 'That's exactly the point' Uncle replies. The roar of gunfire at the end was devastating - it can't possibly help us understand what it must have been like for these men, but, loud to the point of shaking our seats, it was devastating nonetheless.

A million miles away from the trench was Saturday's 'The Comedy of Errors' at the Sheffield Crucible. The Crucible has blossomed under Michael Grandage and it's a real shame that he is leaving, though I have high hopes for his successor as Artist Director, Sam West - I can't think of anyone I'd rather have taking over the reins quite frankly. 'The Comedy of Errors' is the last production under Grandage, though he is not personally directing it. Nevertheless, I was really hoping that he would go out on a high.

At first, I have to admit, I was a little worried. This production is set in a highly camp and stylised 1970's Hollywood (there is an Ephesus sign somewhat similar to one we can see in LA...). Wile I'm far from a purist when it comes to Shakespeare, I wasn't sure that this was particularly working. It reminded me of some rubbish daytime soap - Sunset Beach sprang to mind - so was the director showing a lack of confidence in the play itself? That wasn't my main concern, however. I was more worried about the fact that they hadn't gone far enough. Just putting on a jumpsuit and platforms doesn't actually say anything, or add anything to the story. There has to be something more! Luckily, it came in the second half, and then some. It starts with a Staurday Night Fever style dance, the comedy sidekick Dromio gets to sing the blues, and a chase scene is set to TV cop-show music. THAT'S what I wanted! This is not a 'great' production - the acting was decent but not spectacular (though admittedly, this is hardly Shakespeare at his best) - but it was certainly a whole lot of fun and I'd go again in an instant. In fact, I plan to.


Mellie Bean said...

Funnily enough, I shall be going to see a production of *The Comedy of Errors* here in Richmond before too long. I've never seen nor read this particular Shakespeare, and am wondering if I should read it before I go to the play or after?

Anyway, glad you had such a nice cultural weekend! :-)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Good to see you blogging again! Have to say CofE not my fav Shakespeare - I think it's a hard one to get 'right' in terms of tone. But an interesting review.