No mistaking the Vaudeville in this Shakespeare
Daryl Cloran’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” is all about playing around with Shakespeare.
It might just be the perfect way to introduce young people to the bawdy comedy of The Bard.
“It’s about offering a sense of surprise to audiences,” Cloran says. “It’s about playing to a sense of theatre, not the movies. It’s about making things happen through the imagination. And yes, it’s still Shakespeare’s play, but not like you’ve seen it before.”
Cloran’s clever idea is to do the play with only five actors and to give it a Vaudeville twist. Think of the recent Broadway version of “The 39 Steps,” a production that turned Scottish novelist John Buchan’s spy thriller on its head.
Cloran was directing Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” for Bard on the Beach in Vancouver when a traditional production of “The Comedy of Errors” was playing alongside it. Cloran began thinking of the possibility of doing Shakespeare’s early comedy in a startling new way.
For Cloran, Shakespeare’s play about mistaken identity and two sets of long lost identical twins, seemed fertile ground for some outrageous fun.
“We set the play in the turn-ofthe-century Vaudeville era,” Cloran says. “It isn’t a full blown musical, but we do use songs from the Vaudeville era, such as “How Come You Do Me Like You Do?” and “You’re The Cream in My Coffee.”
“The show has some frantic costume changes,” Cloran says. “At one point there are 12 characters on stage simultaneously, though we obviously don’t have that many actors in the show.”
Born and raised in Sarnia, Cloran says, “I’ve just always done theatre. I’ve dabbled in film and television, but I like bodies in space, creating a story. I like collaborative work. I’ve done a tiny bit of acting, but for me I like the creative aspect of directing a production.”
Married to actress Holly Lewis and with two children in the family, Cloran has directed at theatres across Canada. He was also the founding artistic director of Theatrefront in Toronto, and artistic director of Theatre and Company in Kitchener-Waterloo and Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, B.C. He’s directed everywhere, from Soulpepper and Tarragon, in Toronto, to The National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
In Hamilton, Cloran directed “Sweet Phoebe,” “Educating Rita” and the controversial drama “Tribes” for Theatre Aquarius.
Currently artistic director of Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Cloran is passionate about theatre and about creating provocative work.
“To make ‘The Comedy of Errors’ work in a different and demanding style, you’ve got to be clever and clear. You have to make sure you’re telling the story. We’ve made changes here and there. We’ve also added a subplot, but this is still ‘The Comedy of Errors’ that everyone knows and loves.”
Cloran’s last production in Hamilton, “Tribes,” was well-reviewed, but not well-loved by everyone. About deafness, and a family’s reaction to a son who wants to be accepted, the play is gritty and bold.
“It was a hard go. At least 100 people left at intermission over the show’s run. But others wrote notes to say they loved it. It was full of foul language, but it was a play with something serious to say. Theatre should be provocative. It should also be a community builder. We should be able to empathize and connect with others. And we should provide opportunities to challenge audiences with provocative work.”
“The Comedy of Errors” won’t be quite so polarizing. It will be a milestone, however, since it is the first time Shakespeare has been performed at Theatre Aquarius as part of the Main Stage Series.
Between the three of them, Andrew Cownden, left, Jamie Robinson and Tess Degenstein inhabit eight different roles in a take on “The Comedy of Errors” that is unlike your high school Shakespeare.
Daryl Cloran is taking a novel approach in directing “The Comedy of Errors.”