Critics sometimes look down on A Comedy of Errors : it is seen as a trivial work; the themes it deals with are insufficiently exalted for the Bard; or the slapstick is inappropriate when Egeon's life is at stake. This is partly fair - the subject is no weightier than mistaken identity; however, Egeon's fate is no more than a nice framing device.
Christopher Luscombe's Globe production is set in Roman times, yet it references music hall slapstick, silent movies and the Carry On films. This is very much a fast-paced, visual comedy, played purely - and played very well - for laughs. As Antipholus beats Dromio, each punch and kick is met with the beat of a drum, each tweak with the toot of a horn. As the confusion increases the pace gets faster, culminating with the cast running around the stage a la Benny Hill, scantily-clad girl and all. Subtle - no. Funny - extremely!
Standout amongst a generally excellent cast was Andrew Havill - or was it Simon Wilson? - as two genuinely indistinguishable Antipholi. Slapstick takes great timing and this was spot-on throughout. The two previous productions of Comedy I have seen - RSC 2001 and 2006 - were both noteworthy for exceptional Dromios. Sam Alexander and Eliot Giaralarocca were not quite up to this mark, but good nonetheless.
Sarah Woodward, however, as Adriana was exceptional. Her part is often overlooked in the all-male mayhem going on around her, but she displayed a fine comic touch, some towering rages and forced her presence on the audience.
In comedy, it is often the audience that makes the evening. Laughter breeds laughter, and the fickle Globe audience tonight was superb, being both as uproarious - but also as still - a Globe audience as I have seen. A fitting tribute to an excellent production.