Bard on the Beach attempts Shakespearean science fiction
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Bard on the Beach celebrates its 26th season this summer with classic and re-imagined renditions of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and King Lear. This season also includes the world stage premiere of C. C. Humphreys’ adapted novel Shakespeare’s Rebel.
In The Comedy of Errors, director Scott Bellis revamps the comedic play with a Steampunk theme that transports viewers to a science fiction world set in a futuristic Victorian era. The stage is filled with a large, industrial set with spinning gears, cogs, pipes, walkways, and a versatile door that can be removed from the set and wheeled around the stage. The actors take to the stage in their stylized period costumes and gadgets, while mechanical sounds and chamber music play. Although the visuals are different, the play stays true to the Bard’s original text, creating an intriguing mash-up of Elizabethan and Victorian eras.
The Comedy of Errors follows Antipholus (Ben Elliott) and his servant Dromio (Luisa Jojic) of Syracuse as they arrive in Ephesus in search of their long lost twin brothers, Antipholus (Jay Hindle) and Dromio (Dawn Petten) of Ephesus. The townspeople mistake them for their twins and a series of incidents lead to damaged relationships, trouble with the law, and a whole lot of confusion.
To help the audience tell the twins apart, the characters’ similar costumes feature subtle differences. For the Antipholus twins, the difference appears in their Sweeney Todd-esque black wigs that feature a large white streak in the front, with one twin’s streak on the left and the other on the right. For the Dromio twins, each has a knee patch that appears on the opposite leg than the other.
Elliott embraces the physical and vocal comedy of the show in a standout performance as Antipholus of Syracuse. Some of his line deliveries are so uproariously funny that his cast mates can be seen stifling a laugh or two while onstage with him.
Hindle plays Antipholus of Ephesus in a dramatic fashion, which brings a traditional Shakespearean feel to the show. His standout moment comes during Antipholus of Ephesus’ exaggerated rant near the end where he tells his friends about his escape from prison after he was arrested for a mix-up over a gold chain that his twin brother accepted.
Petten and Jojic, cast in the gender-bending Dromio roles, have great comedic timing and play well off Elliott and Hindle. After Antipholus of Syracuse takes on Antipholus of Ephesus’ identity, the Dromios converse with each other through Antipholus of Ephesus’ closed front door as Antipholus of Ephesus tries to get into his home. Dromio of Syracuse argues that Antipholus of Ephesus is already inside because Antipholus of Syracuse is pretending to be him, which Dromio of Ephesus protests. The door is rolled out from the set to the centre of the stage to allow the actors to both be seen during their argument through the door. While Petten and Jojic’s comedy is entertaining, it is the Dromios’ heartfelt words that close the play that make their performances unforgettable—they decide they don’t care which one is oldest, they only care that they have each other.
The Comedy of Errors will run until September 26 at the BMO Mainstage in Vanier Park in Vancouver. On Talkback Tuesdays, the show concludes with a question and answer session with the cast. For more information, visit BardOnTheBeach.org.
Tickets range from $29 (for youth 22 and under) to $55. You can purchase your tickets online, or by calling 604-739-0559.