Daily Mail

Plenty of comedy (and very few errors) in dotty reboot of the Bard


The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less) (Shakespear­e North Playhouse, Prescot)

Verdict: It’s fun up north ★★★★✩

Top Girls (Everyman Theatre, Liverpool)

Verdict: Just off peak ★★★✩✩

LOCALS can hardly believe it themselves. In Shakes p e a r e ’ s d a y, Liverpool’s sleepy eastern suburb of Prescot was an Elizabetha­n Las Vegas: a market town where people flocked for gambling, merriment and . . . theatre!

The handsome new playhouse, which opened here in the autumn, aims to re-bottle that energy with a lively programme that continues with a loving travesty of the Bard’s mistaken identity caper, The Comedy Of Errors.

Only here, the play’s been updated as a Lancashire-Yorkshire stand- off in 1980s Scarboroug­h (and, as it happens, it’s running there, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, after this).

Shakespear­e’s verse is updated, with strong modern vernacular and rhyming couplets, by Nick Lane and Elizabeth Godber — daughter of Hull’s most celebrated playwright (before Richard Bean), John Godber.

Godber Jr and Lane set the stage ablaze with joyous seaside postcard caricature­s.

Plot details are too complex to relate, but suffice to say that one of the long-lost twins, Antipholus of Prescot, rocks up in Scarboroug­h and is bewildered to find himself mistaken for the husband of wealthy heiress Adriana. Although the play has been cleaned up for political correctnes­s, that doesn’t stop the language being pungently northern. ‘Methinks he takes the p***!’ cries one. ‘Shut your cake hole, you nutty slack,’ barks another. The ten-plus age guidance seems, er, broadminde­d.

But what makes this great fun are the dotty characters, including David Kirkbride’s double act as Antipholus of Prescot and Scarboroug­h.

THE former winds up in a massive ‘99’ ice cream costume, while the latter falls foul of Claire Eden’s payday lender Big Sandra (‘I’ll tek him — he owes me brass’).

And the confusion is partially curated by Andy Cryer’s fixer in a shell suit, Pinch (‘My suppliers take payment with pliers’).

No attempt should be made to follow the logic of Paul Robinson’s dizzying production. Just trust he’s got his head around the geometry of Shakespear­e’s plot on our behalf. Yes, it pushes its luck by running at the best part of three hours. But with 1980s chart hits from Billy Joel to Whitesnake, it keeps the audience chortling and singing along.

■ CARYL CHURCHILL’S 1980s classic Top Girls, about employment agency exec, Marlene, has been given a more modest makeover at Liverpool’s Everyman.

Shifting from its original London and Norfolk setting — to London and Liverpool — it’s a slightly tame interventi­on by the theatre’s new regime, led by flawlessly PC creative director Suba Das.

It starts with Marlene inviting women — including ninthcentu­ry female Pope, Joan — to dinner to discuss the trials of being female down the ages.

The action then shifts to Marlene’s agency and the pressures facing profession­al women.

But the most interestin­g thing is the ambivalenc­e Churchill records about profession­al independen­ce, through the child Marlene has given up to be fostered by her sister.

On the one hand, Churchill seems to celebrate women’s release from being secondclas­s citizens in the workforce. On the other, she paints profession­al ambition as exacting a high personal cost. There’s no such ambivalenc­e about Das’s production, which starts by thanking us for sharing the cast’s non-binary values. Tala Gouveia’s Marlene is certainly smart, but comes across as more bemused than guilty or troubled.

Only Alicya Eyo, as her sister Joyce, really makes us feel her character’s resentment at having to raise Marlene’s child and care for their mother. We must, however, wish Das well in his mission to put the Everyman back on the map as the Scouse powerhouse it was in its heyday.

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 ?? ?? Joyous: Kirkbride’s Antipholus and (right) Cryer’s shellsuite­d fixer
Joyous: Kirkbride’s Antipholus and (right) Cryer’s shellsuite­d fixer

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