Review: The Comedy of Errors. Oddsocks Productions (on tour). Markeaton Park. Derby.

Arriving at Markeaton Craft Village, there is a sense of calm as one is directed to a socially distanced ‘pitch’ ready for the performance to begin. The courtyard setting, surrounded by greenery puts one in mind of the Forest of Arden; less groundlings in the pit, and more of a modern day Arcadia, especially if the sun is shining. Bring your own chair, bring your own picnic and wait for the fun to begin. You won’t be disappointed as mayhem, mishaps and magic ensue.

Oddsocks Productions was founded in 1989 by husband and wife team, Andy Barrow and Elli Mackenzie. Their mission is to make theatre entertaining, informative and inclusive. They are clearly delighted to be back in business, performing and touring with their unique take on The Comedy of Errors. Postponed due to lockdown, an ensemble cast of five perform with gusto, energy and a sheer joy which is contagious. But, don’t worry, you won’t need a vaccine as this is just what the doctor ordered; a much-needed booster which will make you smile and laugh out loud.

One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors is also one of his shortest and funniest. A servant and mistress from far away Syracuse arrive in Ephesus searching for their long-lost twin siblings. They immediately become caught up in a chaotic chain of events, involving mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and plenty of mischief.

Oddsocks delight with their trademark interactive style, directly addressing members of the audience and welcoming us into this crazy world, which at times reflects our own. Brexit allusions, errant politicians and the state of the nation are all ripe for the Oddsocks’ treatment, in a way which is never heavy-handed and provokes much mirth.

Furthermore, there is something for all ages in this production. The visual nature and physical comedy of the piece make it wonderfully entertaining. One can laugh along at burping jokes, whilst appreciating comments on delivery delays and trade embargoes. What Oddsocks does so well is to make Shakespeare more accessible, combining the original text with modern additions and hilarious improvisations on the night.  

The ‘steampunk’ set is ably put to use as characters ascend, descend and even travel by boat! This reviewer is particularly enjoying Joseph Maudsley’s performance as Adrian, the hapless ‘househusband’, as he wrestles with a crying baby, dirty nappies and a seemingly erratic wife. This gender switch from the original source feels fresh and contemporary and is delivered with warmth and wit.

Indeed, the whole cast perform with such charm that one becomes caught up in their energy. Laughter and applause ripple around the audience at the rollicking sea shanty style songs and the comic riffing. Moreover, the slapstick is performed with uproarious aplomb.

Oddsocks’ The Comedy of Errors delivers a huge serving of delicious absurdism; what’s not to like?  

 Running time – 2 hours (including interval)

Link for tour bookings HERE.

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