Posts Tagged ‘Comedy’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot think of a better way to bring in the Year of the Dragon, than with Shakespeare’s farcical quick-witted comedy at Maynardville Open Air Theatre. At the opening of their new show, The Comedy of Errors, last Saturday, we were welcomed by rows of scarlet Chinese lanterns that lit up the path, vibrant paper dragons, and an array of other colourful Chinese New Year decorations, which fitted in perfectly with their 1970’s Kung Fu Cinema styled production. They had everything from panda’s with swagger (Oscar Sanders), multi-coloured merchants with serious ninja skills, eccentric schoolmasters (Gabriel Marchand), to a giddy, bubble-blowing harajuku girl (Jenny Stead). What more could one ask for? Well, what about a tale of two pairs of identical twins, separated at birth by a tragic shipwreck, whom unwittingly find themselves in the same city years later? Oh, yes.

This, as I’m sure you can imagine, unleashes a series of uproarious misunderstandings, farcical contortions and several cases of mistaken identities, with absolute hilarious consequences! In order for director Matthew Wild to create a modern-day “Ephesus” setting in which the foreign characters can sense an atmosphere of danger, mystery and enchantment – a mercantile city, where profit and trade are high on the residents’ daily agenda, he had consider many different factors. Drawing inspiration from films such as Enter the Dragon, it was decided upon a type of Never Never Land “Chinatown” setting, composed of irrelevant Asian clichés, signs and symbols, that would create the perfect atmosphere in which the tale could unfold. The genre of the classic 1970’s Hong Kong martial arts films, according to Wild, in which the tone may very rapidly switch from romance, to slapstick, to genuine danger, with this style of dramatic language and fight sequences, may be “the source of elegant, balletic comedy” and “a treasure-trove of vividly imagined, exotic locales”.

Despite being one of the earliest (and shortest) of Shakespeare’s plays, it has retained its popularity with audiences, having been frequently adapted to suit our ever-changing modern society. A great deal of the play’s humour revolves around the beating of servants, a potentially bleak source of amusement for modern-day audiences. Many directors have had to tackle the repeated comic beatings of the bondsmen and other servants in this play, and one way of doing so was by looking back to commedia dell’arte and slapstick-type physical comedy such as that of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. That being said, the physical interaction between the Antipholus twins and their bondsmen, Dromio, were lighthearted and enjoyably comical.

The play opens with Egeon(played by Stephen Jennings), father of the Antipholus twins, and his whopper of a monologue. Even the sharpest-eared audience members would be likely to miss the vital moment of clarification about the heartbreaking separation of the young twins & their reason for them ending up with identical names, but not this audience. Oh, no. Thanks to a clever director, the aid of skilfully handled visual stimuli were used to illustrate exactly what transpired that fateful day and made it so much easier for us, the audience, to follow the story from there on in. And so the comedy of errors ensues. The locals constantly confuse the visiting twins for the native twins – even Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife Adriana and her sister Luciana are easily fooled. All the confusion results in Antipholus of Ephesus (the native twin) being arrested for debt and declared mad, while Atipholus of Syracuse (the visiting twin) takes refuge from his brother’s enraged wife in a nunnery – where the abbess turns out to be Egeon’s long lost wife and the twins’ mother.

There were some superb performances by Nicholas Pauling, who played the very confused visiting Antipholus of Syracuse, along with the well-known and loved comedian Rob van Vuuren, who played his equally bewildered servant Dromio. The native Antipholus, Andrew Laubscher and his loyal bondsman, James Cairns. The leading ladies were just as captivating, especially Sonia Esgueira, who played the part of Adriana, Antipholus’ wife, and dared the stage with 6 inch heels! The poor visiting Dromio found himself unknowingly married to a lusty lady, which he himself described as a “mountain of flesh” (hysterically played by the talented Chi Mhende). With the aid of cleverly designed twin outfits with only subtle colour differences, so we could tell the two pairs of twins apart, this performance was well thought out, colourful in every sense of the word and roll-on-the-floor-laughing funny. Every detail was carefully considered, even down to the little female DJ in the roof that just gave it that cherry-on-top *KAPOW* effect.

Maynardville truly outdid themselves once again. Four and a half stamps of approval — well worth a night out at the theatre! There are still shows available until the 18th of February. Perfect for a Valentine’s cuddle under the stars.

Woody Allen’s fictional Scandinavian playwright, Jorgen Lovborg, was no lady’s man, in fact, quite the opposite. The poor creature had terrible trouble with the fairer sex, yet was able to channel his genius (or rather Woody’s genius) into creating the most memorable of female characters in the history of imaginary dramatists.

Driven to create depressing, shocking plays of the realism / naturalism genre, as well as to bring about a safer means of weighing herring, Lovborg brought us the side-splitting Geese Aplenty, A Mother’s Gums, Those Who Squirm, I Prefer to Yodel, While We Three Hemorrhage, and Mellow Pears. He was led by his predecessors, Ibsen & Chekov, who carved the way for his exceptional ability to find the funny side within the stagnant framework of realism.

His works came alive once again in Cape Town’s Intimate Theatre last Tuesday, when the Mechanicals Theatre Company performed Lovborg’s Women. Here we considered and reconsidered some of these larger-than-life female characters with hilarious consequences.

The Intimate Theatre is exactly that, intimate. It’s snuggled in between two of UCT’s old campus buildings and the only thing indicating its whereabouts are some beautifully lit fairy lights. A true Pediophobiac, I was a little freaked out by the dolls they had displayed at the entrance of the theatre, but other than that, it was so quaint and lovely. The black box styled theatre itself is small and had me practically spilling onto the stage from the front row.

Immediately, I found myself being swallowed up by the experience. The actors were close enough to touch – literally – yet completely engrossed in their characters. Their use of sound effects was perfectly executed and lighting was simple, yet effective to set the appropriate mood. Their clever use of uncomplicated props and stage furniture made each scene unique, flowing effortlessly into each other.

The wit was infectious and had us on the edge of our seats throughout the entire show. Not once did the actors drop the pace and momentum of the piece, even through rigorous costume changes, interpretive DV8-like dancing, and flamboyant Lady Gaga & Madonna impersonations. It had me, an old Performing Arts graduate, in stitches as they considered and reconsidered the naturalistic ideals of Lovborg and other realism playwrights before him, and their comical use of theatrical terminology made me snicker with delight. This being said, it would appeal to those who don’t necessarily understand all the drama mumbo-jumbo, as the performance is jam-packed with physical humour and general silliness.

As you can see on the poster above, the show continues until the 21st of May, and I strongly urge you to get yourselves down to Cape Town’s Intimate Theatre and treat yourself to this quirky and well-directed production. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.