The Phoenix Theatre production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors offers audiences an updated and upbeat rendition of this classic tale. Photo by David Lowes/Courtesy Phoenix Theatre

REVIEW: The Phoenix presents Shakespeare with a wacky twist

Sheila Martindale offers her take on The Comedy of Errors, running through March 24

Sheila Martindale

Monday Magazine contributor

At the University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre right now, you can see Shakespeare performed like never before: to rap and hip-hop, with bells and whistles, with the man himself as a drag queen; it’s Shakespeare with no holds barred. The Bard would probably turn over in his grave.

Having said that, this is a really good production – energetic, peppy, with perfect timing and great singing. It was, after all, written as a farce. I mean – two sets of identical twins, separated by a shipwreck when they were young, growing up in different countries, and suddenly being in the same place at the same time by mere coincidence. This is when the mistaken identities begin, with the brothers all being taken for each other. Pretty far-fetched, even when performed according to the text.

Director Jeffrey Renn has played fast and loose with The Comedy of Errors, and has come up with a surprisingly good show. Brendan Elwell and Douglas Peerless play the parts of the two Antipholus brothers – did I mention that they have the same name? – anyway, they do it very well. The brothers Dromio have the comic relief roles and they are handled perfectly by Chantal Gallant and Emma Grabinsky, making the most of every ridiculous situation. Nathan Patterson stands out in the female role of Luce, in six-inch stiletto heels!

Every actor is good in this madcap cast and there are too many of them for much detail here. Suffice it to say there is not a weak link in the entire group. That has to include the creative crew also, who had their work cut out for them in this off-the-wall production. Christine Penhale does a brilliant job with choreography on this busy small stage, and Jivan Bains-Wood deserves special mention as costume designer for this crazy production.

So, if you are happy to see a different Shakespeare, where liberties are taken with the original script, make a point of seeing The Comedy of Errors, which runs at the Phoenix until March 24. For tickets click here or call 250-721-8003.

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