OVO’s Comedy of Errors at St Albans’ Maltings Arts Theatre

THE Comedy of Errors, like most of Shakespeare’s comedies, is not generally that funny to 21st-Century audiences with its laboured 16th-Century jokes and complicated wordplay.

So all credit to OVO for actually making their production of The Comedy of Errors extremely amusing and so user friendly that it would appeal to all ages.

Of course, it is not quite The Comedy of Errors as Shakespeare intended but director Paula Chitty made an inspired choice by setting it in Budleigh Salterton on the English Riviera of all places and introducing such novelties as a camp waiter, a trio of excellent singers and the strong feeling of a day at the seaside – and all that at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.

The scene is set as the play opens with a clever mime followed by an excellent soliloquy by Paul de Burton as Egeon who arrives in Budleigh Salterton to try and find his missing twin sons, carrying a suitcase inscribed “23 years later”, thus bringing the action straight into the present.

The problem of needing two sets of twins in the play – two Antipholus’s and two Dromio’s – is not an easy one if you haven’t grasped the situation early on but the constant mistaken identities soon overcomes that.

Warren Albers and Rob Ferguson, dressed in the same clothing if not physically alike, play Antipholus of Salterton and Antipholus of Syracuse respectively and both extract maximum humour from their roles.

As the two manservant Dromio’s, Howard Salinger and Mark Snelling actually have the harder job because they both have to appear to be particularly dim which does not lend itself to quite such effective humour as their respective masters achieve.

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Lucy Crick is a fragrant Adriana while Jo Emery masters the art of looking totally riveted by everything which is happening to and around her with a wicked variety of facial expressions.

The production is extremely camp – always good for laughs – and Kieran Cummins and Chris Delaney milk that for all it is worth. And of the trio of singers, of whom Chris Delaney is one, the other two, Linda Bagaini and Vince McLoughlin, also deserve special mention.

James Pitchford playing Pinch as well as the hotel pianist completes a talented company.

Director and cast give their all in this production and deserve to see the theatre full for the final few performances at 8pm tonight (Thursday), tomorrow and Saturday. Tickets at �12.50 with concessions �7.50 are available at www.ovo.org.uk.