Yesterday afternoon we went to see The Comedy of Errors performed in a circular garden on the side of the Elizabethan Ramparts in Berwick-on-Tweed. It was a brilliant performance by London’s Shakespeare Globe Touring Company. We both thought this was one of the best, if not the best, performance we’ve seen.
The day didn’t look promising when I woke up – the garden was shrouded in mist, first thing and then it drizzled all morning. The play would go on regardless of the weather but we didn’t fancy watching in the rain. Much to our relief by the afternoon it was bright and sunny in Berwick and armed with our new folding director’s chairs we found our way to the circular garden – a perfect setting for the play. It’s surrounded by trees, so sheltered from the sea breeze with the ramparts making an impressive backdrop.
Photos weren’t allowed during the performance, but during the interval I took this one of the booth stage and some of the audience:
The audience was mixed with families, babies, toddlers, older children and a dog. People had brought picnics, sandwiches, wine and champagne and the atmosphere was relaxed and happy; “anyone got a corkscrew?” one lady asked and as people laughed one was handed to her. Everyone had brought their own seating – garden chairs – plastic and wooden, folding chairs, blankets and rugs. Seagulls swooped overhead, a little aeroplane chugged across the sky above, and people stood above on the ramparts looking down. There was a bar selling beer, wine, coffee and snacks. I had a red wine and a cup of coffee and D had beer.
The booth stage is designed from paintings and etchings from Shakespeare’s time, when the company of actors he worked with toured the country before they formed a company at the Globe and even after that, taking the show on the road. This gave the performance an authentic 17th century feel, and as we were all so near the stage it was as though we had a part to play as well.
The Comedy of Errors is a farce and in these actors’ hands it was hilarious as they dashed around the stage and in and out of the audience. The cast of eight actors was fantastic, the play went at a fast pace, the energy was amazing as they doubled up the parts of the two sets of twins and other characters too – confusion and mayhem was at its peak. Their timing was so slick, as they switched from one character to the next. I was wondering how they were going to handle the finale where the twins come face to face and it was masterful. Each twin brought on to the stage a life-size cardboard cut-out figure of himself – it was true comedy.
I can’t praise it enough!