No mis­tak­ing the Vaude­ville in this Shake­speare

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - GARY SMITH Gary Smith has writ­ten on the­atre and dance for The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor for more than 35 years.

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.”

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