The Bomb-itty of Errors
Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
UQ Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio
February 24 – March 8 2014
Reviewed by Meredith Walker
The energetic twist on one of the Bard’s earliest works, The Comedy of Errors tells the story of lost identical twins and ridiculous mistaken identity, all while a DJ spins and actors rap. Despite this modernisation, the play manages to retain much of the Bard’s original text. William Shakespeare’s template features two sets of twins—a pair of masters both conveniently named Antipholus, and a pair of servants, both named Dromio—who are separated as infants. In The Bomb-itty of Errors, they’re quadruplets—two pairs of twins—left abandoned. When the duo that was raised in Ephesus shows up in Syracuse, this comedy of mistaken identities ensues.
Shakespeare demands intensity of actors and this is especially so when there is the additional vocal pressure of 90 minutes of hip hop. And the ensemble cast is more than up to the challenge, with just a few dialogue slips, easily forgiven given the frenzied nature of the show, with four actors, playing multiple characters and multiple genders, all while rapping and rhyming. Indeed, frequent entrances and exits, and frantic costume changes only add to the farcical nature of the chaos, especially when they see actors revealing in Shakespearean drag tradition.
The quartet has as much fun acting as females as in their male roles. In fact, as ‘dumb as paint’ Luciana and her fierce sister Adriana, Zac Kelty and Silvah Rus steal the show. Contrastingly, Colin Smith and Luke Cadden find their strength in their male roles as the two strutting and fretting brothers Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. And then there is Artistic Director, Rob Pensalfini’s appearance as Rastafarian apothecary, Dr Pinch, which heightens audience engagement as he eyes the ladies.
The fast-paced nature of this ‘ad-rap-ation’ means that audience members must be on their toes, not just due to its fourth wall breakdowns, but to catch all the lyrics as they tumble word play and pun upon alliteration and rhyme, with a rhythm not unlike that of Shakesepare’s iambic pentameter. It really is a feast for the ears, clever and lewd, and very Shakespeare. The dialogue is infused, not just with bawdiness, but pop culture references such as to twerking and quidditch, and phrases like cray cray and OMG, which is fitting, perhaps given that the work is based on that which would have been the pop culture of its day (given that way in which his works are so influenced by the world around him.)
Visually, too, the show does not disappoint. Although there are some early lapses in the precision of lighting transitions, the colour and movement of the show are almost to the point of animation, with The University of Queensland’s Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio set transformed to into a hip-hop cultured, cartooned world of brothels and convents by urban artist Will Powell.