The Comedy of Errors

by William Shakespeare

directed by Brian Stansbridge

Performed on the Archery Lawn of

Hamptworth Lodge

on

Wednesday 16th to Saturday 26th July 2008

After presenting an open show for the previous 26 years at Mottisfont Abbey, the Maskers were delighted to be given the opportunity to work at Hamptworth Lodge. We look forward to a long future of presenting our summer open air productions at this stunning venue. The show sold out most nights of the run, the audiences obviously enjoyed themselves and we hope to see them and many more next year.

Ramblings from the Director!

I have loved the Comedy of Errors ever since I played Dromio of Syracuse in our first production of the play in 1980 and I still have the scars to prove it - literally. As you will see, the play requires that the Dromio twins are subjected to much physical abuse, but the esteemed actor who was playing Antipholus of Syracuse was pulling his punches and it didn't look realistic. So, I suggested he should hit me for real, but in places where it didn't hurt too much. This worked fine in rehearsal, but as soon as he discarded his glasses for the actual performances, his vision went a little fuzzy and so did his aim. I emerged from the run of the play with bruises all over my body. Me and my big mouth! Having had to suffer for my art, I have made sure Matt Avery and Rob Praine suffer at least as much as I did!

Now you may wonder why we have set the play in the Ottoman Empire, circa 1850. Yes, well, the explanation is a little complex but it goes something like this:
Shakespeare clearly wasn't too fussy about historical accuracy. The Comedy of Errors is based on a play by the Roman playwright Plautus, who was writing around the end of the second century B.C., but the bard includes a Christian Abbess and refers to political events in late 16th century France and to the Americas which had not been discovered by Europeans until relatively recently. It was probably first performed in Elizabethan costume. So, all things considered I don't see why I shouldn't choose the period in which we set the production.

It is set in Ephesus and Ephesus is in modern day Turkey which was the centre of the Ottoman Empire. It requires a lot of paranoia amongst the rulers of the City, whereby visitors from certain destinations are regarded with so much suspicion that they are executed unless they can pay a heavy fine. In the mid 19th Century, the Ottoman Empire was very worried about foreigners (especially Russians), so might feasibly have been tempted into taking such drastic measures.

The Ottoman Empire, whilst fundamentally Muslim, gave sanctuary to people from many persecuted religious minorities (at a price), so might easily have allowed a Christian Abbey in its midst, if they complied with certain conditions.

The Ottoman Empire in the mid 19th century, was, in many ways drawn towards Europe and the dress of the upper echelons of society increasingly reflected that, many adopted European fashions (but retained Muslim headwear, so that they could touch the ground with their forehead whilst praying). Of course, the low strata of society didn't have anything to do with such fripperies and retained Middle Eastern costume. So, by setting the play there and then, we had some great opportunities to create interesting costumes.

It's a bit of a romp and nothing bears too close scrutiny. Look too deeply, or too long and you start to say "Hang on a minute, wouldn't they have realised that ...". I hope you enjoy the show as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.

Thanks to my wife Angela for her unending support and to all the cast and crew.

Brian Stansbridge

The Cast
Solinus Alan Watson
Egeon John Souter
Antipholus of Syracuse Pete Burrows
Antipholus of Ephesus James Norton
Dromio of Syracuse Rob Praine
Dromio of Ephesus Matt Avery
First Merchant Lewis Brunt
Second Merchant David Collis
Angelo Paul Baker
Balthasar Bruce Atkinson
Pinch Albie Minns
Officer Adam Taussik
Executioner Tony Lawther
Adriana Rachael Courage
Luciana Joanna Russel
Luce Suze Provins
Nell Meri Mackney
Courtesan George Moody
Emilia Jenni Watson
The Chorus Erroneous
Courtesans, Nuns, Market Traders, Juggler, Snake Charmer, Belly Dancer, Café Waiter, Customers and Crowd.
Brenda Atkinson, Chris Baker, Lewis Brunt, David Fancett, Jo Fox, Angela Stansbridge, Joanna Iacovou, Clare Minns, Albie Minns, Sylvia Warren, Daniel Humphrey, Suze Provins, Meri Mackney

From the Hampshire Chronicle

BELLY dancers, snake-charmers and haggling merchants gave us a hint of the Turkish delight to come as we settled down on the archery lawn at Hamptworth Lodge to watch The Comedy of Errors.

Not that there are any mistakes made in this helter-skelter romp as the Maskers Theatre Company pelt through the closest thing Shakespeare ever got to farce with narry a trip, prompt or missed entrance.

Its 19th century Ottoman Empire setting gives plenty of scope for colourful costumes and comic business and Brian Stansbridge's punchy, pacy production is packed with visual jokes, running gags and mad knockabout fun.

He's well served by a hardworking cast, who throw themselves (sometimes quite literally) into this tale of twin brothers (energetically played by Pete Burrows and James Norton) parted at birth and blissfully ignorant of the other's existence until they are brought together in Ephesus.

Their servants are another set of similarly separated twins (Rob Praine and Matt Avery), paving the way for a classic case of mistaken identities complicated by a jealous wife (Rachel Courage), her bluestocking sister (Joanna Russel), a father condemned to death (an uncharatcteristically sombre John Souter) and a smouldering quack (Albie Minns).

It would be invidious to declare a first among equals but certainly Tony Lawther and Angela Barks should take a bow for the technical and practical smooth running of this ambitious production.

And spare a thought too for the battering that Rob and Matt take as the beleagured Dromio twins - rarely have so many bruises been earned in the name of art.

A change in National Trust policy forced Maskers to vacate Mottisfont Abbey after years of open-air productions there but they have fallen on their feet with Hamptworth.

Its tiered terraces provide a natural stage and the new venue is glorious, perfect for a summer evening's entertainment in the right hands - and this production is.

Lesley Bates (Salisbury Journal)

 
Production Team
Director Brian Stansbridge
Assistant to the Director Angela Stansbridge
Production Manager Christine Baker
Technical Manager Tony Lawther
Technical Assistants David Ilsley, Nathan Weeks, Clive Weeks
Stage Manager Angela Barks
Set Construction Roger Lockett, Graham Buchanan
Set Painting Ken Spencer, Graham Buchanan
Lighting Tony Lawther, David Ilsley
Sound Jamie McCarthy, Tony Lawther, David Ilsley
Costume Design Serena Brown
Properties Ella Lockett, Gill Buchanan, Alison Tebbitt, Liz Hill
Set Dressing Angela Stansbridge, Luciana Lattanzi, Angela Barks, Gill Buchanan, Ella Lockett, Sarah and Steve Russell
Flag Design Hazel Burrows
Flag Painting Sarah and Steve Russell
Special Effects Tony Lawther, Bob and Molly Gibson, John Hamon, Pete Burrows, George Moody
Pyro Operator David Fancett
Flight Arrangements Paul Benzing
Back Stage Assistants Kay Mortimer, David Fancett
Front of House Managers Geoff and Pam Cook, Maskers Members and Friends
Safety Officer Ken Hann
Publicity Sarah Russell, Angela Stansbridge, Ian Morley, Pam & Geoff Cook
Publicity Artwork Design John Hamon
Programme Luciana Lattanzi
Photography Clive Weeks

 
 

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Shirley's own LOCAL theatre!

Maskers Theatre Company
Off Emsworth Road
Shirley
Southampton
SO15 3LX

Registered Charity 900067

Established 1968

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