George Banders and Aaron Tsindos in The Comedy of Errors.

George Banders and Aaron Tsindos in The Comedy of Errors. Photo: Takaya Honda

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS and THE TEMPEST

Bella Vista Farm Park, December 21
Until January 1

 

This twofer of Shakespeare’s shorter plays – the bookends of his career – makes for an involving if inconclusive night.

The reasoning behind it lies in the notion that the farcical The Comedy of Errors (circa 1594) and the dark-toned The Tempest (1610-11) share some thematic territory. In both plays, the protagonists have been stranded, cut off from their old lives. Each concludes with a powerful act of forgiveness and reconciliation.

In this back-to-back presentation by outdoor Shakespeare specialist Sport for Jove, neither seems to shed much light into the other, however.

The evening kicks off in the courtyard of the Bella Vista homestead with The Comedy of Errors, the story of two sets of twins, separated as infants by a storm at sea, only to be slammed together years later by fate.

Shakespeare’s setting, Ephesus, is given a 1950s spin in director Terry Karabelas’ brisk and vivid production. There is something of the post-GFC about it, too. The slapstick mayhem seems as much a result of general instability as mistaken identity. Corruption is everywhere, and of course when economic storms blow it’s always the most recent arrivals – represented here by Aegeon, merchant of Syracuse (played by Keith Agius) – who feel the chill hardest.

George Banders and Aaron Tsindos, dressed in identical sailor duds, are very funny and convincingly alike Dromios, ducking and weaving while their twin masters (Anthony Gooley and Scott Sheridan) grapple with the confusion they cause among the townsfolk and their tempestuous WAGs.

In short, lots of fun and entirely satisfying as a night’s entertainment. We are, however, only halfway through.

A 15-minute interval and a walk down to Bella Vista’s historic sheep shed gets the blood flowing again for director Matt Edgerton’s straightforward, uncontroversial Tempest, which unfolds as a too-genial parable on virtue’s triumph over the impulse for vengeance.

Moreover, it doesn’t seem too much of a struggle for Damian Ryan’s warmly played Prospero, whose bookish demeanour is more young Dumbledore than conflicted necromancer.

Likewise, the darkness, yearning and anger in Yalin Ozucelik’s Caliban is strikingly expressed but feels like it might all go away if only someone would give the guy a hug.

George Banders gets no rest, teaming up with Sam Haft to create an amusing double act in Stephano and Trinculo.

Danielle King is funnier, though, as wicked Sebastia, staggering through the jungle in high heels, searching for a mobile phone signal. It’s a rare moment of conflict with a bucolic setting that tends to cushion us from The Tempest’s impact.

The Comedy of Errors  and The Tempest also play at the Leura Shakespeare Festival, January 5 to 20.