Another triumph for OUDS Thelma Holt International Summer Tour, with The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare - at University Church, Oxford.
Legendary West End producer Thelma Holt, became the Cameron Mackintosh Professor in Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College Oxford in 1998, where her association with the Oxford University Drama Society began. For fourteen years she has been taking Oxford’s top talent to produce, design, direct and perform in Shakespeare across the UK and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space. It is through these tours that young stars like Rosamund Pike, Julian Ovenden and Rory Kinear began their careers.
This year Thelma Holt’s brilliant choice of Producer is the magnetic Jessica Campbell, who told me it was “a dream to work with such a good company” and that she has loved every moment. Jessica is not new to the role of producer - her production of The State vs John Hayes opened at the Hen and Chickens last summer and is now off to EdFest. She has six other OUDs productions to her name and now that she is graduating I am sure we will get the chance to see a lot more Campbell productions in the future.
This years brilliant young director Christopher Adams won his pitch with a vision of Comedy of Errors set in 2013 in Malaga - a contemporary equivalent of the wealth and excess of Ephesus, where Shakespeare sets the play. Christopher wanted us to see the characters as “a community of pleasure-seekers who have drifted from their roots” and the analogy works extremely well. He lends a particularly physical element to the production from his Lecoq training, and experience as assistant to Irina Brook’s production of Pan.
The play is one of Shakespeare’s most farcical comedies full of mistaken identity, idiotic slapstick and clever wordplay. But beneath the surface lies a dark underbelly that seems to be touching on the quest for “self” understanding and there were times when I wondered whether I was “in earth, in heaven, or in hell, sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised”, but I loved every moment of it.
Emma D’Arcy’s acting stage manager is a tour de force, but I will say no more because I might give it away! Adriana (Hannah Gliksten) and Luciana (Constance Greenfield) have a real sisterly connection, which must have developed through the intensive improvisation workshops that Christopher took the troupe through at the beginning of rehearsals. Natasha Heliotis (Abess & First Merchant), has a beautiful singing voice and transformed effortlessly between her different parts. Peter Huhne acted with real gravitas as the Duke and in contrast Dylan Townley caught the comedy with his character roles as Angelo and Jailer.
I was very fond of Alexander Stutt as Egeon and can see why he has won a prize place at The Drama Centre. Amelia Sparling who plays the rotund Nell and Zoe Bullock who plays Balthazar and the Courtesan are excellent comediennes.
|Artemas Froushan and Hannah Gliksten as Antipholus of Ephesus and Adriana|
My favourite performance was David Sheilds, who completely captivated me with his portrayal of Antipholus of Syracuse, with a mixture of sensitive and hilarious comic acting played with perfect timing. His man servant Dromio was brought to life beautifully by Sam Plumb as a lanky camp inbetweener and his twin Dromio, Harley Viveash left us almost weeping with his mirror image of bonkers slapstick. Artemas Froushan created a wonderfully louche Antipholus of Ephesus.
The music was exciting and eclectic, all composed especially for the show by Nathan Klein.
This Comedy of Errors is a wonderful display of energetic new talent and really well worth trying to see if you can pick it up on the tour which begins on Wednesday 14th August.
It will be running at:
Southwark Playhouse 14th to 17th August 7.30pm
and on 17th August at 3pm
18th August in the Dell at Stratford-Upon-Avon at 4pm
24th August 1pm & 7pm and 25th August at 6pm
Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space
29th August 7.30pm
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
4-7th September 7.30pm
Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
To contact the tour producer, Jessica Campbell, or the tour director, Christopher Adams please email: firstname.lastname@example.org