Review: The Comedy of Errors

National Theatre ****

This smart version of The Comedy of Errors from Dominic Cooke sees the story in a contemporary Ephesus, complete with swish apartment blocks, transvestites and pumping nightclubs.

And the confusion, over two pairs of twins each separated from their brother at birth and paired up with the other’s brother who come to be in this city, is played out beautifully.

Lenny Henry is Antipholus of Syracuse who goes in search of his opposite with his trusty slave Dromeo. Henry’s Antipholus is African-accented and is played almost perfectly by the star (so much so we can forgive that it is a version of character we have seen Henry deliver before elsewhere). His opposite is a British-accented Antipholus, a suave and sometimes slippery businessman complete with his own football-shirt wearing Dromeo. He is played well by Chris Jarman, who is paired up with the wealthy Adriana- here metamorphed into a Jimmy Choo wearing wag with her manicured sister Luciana at her side.

It is a setup that chimes thoroughly with our current surroundings. But the story suffers not one bit for any of these creative quirks. When the identity of the identical twins is confused -leading to many of the characters feeling betrayed- the emotion is palpable. The lows are grippingly low and the highs are at times hilarious.

Whether it is Adriana declaring her love to a befuddled Antipholus who does not know her or the frazzled gold dealer Angelo demanding payment for a chain that the other Antipholus says he’s never seen before- each character is in such high command of their role that not a scrap of meaning is lost.

Consequently, the serious themes of this tangled tale come easily to the surface. Each character behaves blindly and selfishly yet expects others to do otherwise- a timeless problem presented by Shakespeare and reiterated here in a very timely way.

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Until January 17 2012