The camp and garish atmosphere of Propeller’s A Comedy of Errors hits you smack in the face as soon as you walk in. A football shirt and shades-wearing, moustachioed mariachi band plays to the audience as they filter to their seats. This is already a peculiar way to present Shakespeare, and coupled with the grimy, shanty-town style set, it’s only set to get stranger. Apart from the sequins, occasionally funny and terrifying drag costumes, and a few pop culture references, Propeller works with the script and plays up the comedy with slapstick, and winks to the audience to brilliant effect.
In contrast to A Comedy of Errors’ pantomimic energy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream had an almost nightmarish quality, reinforced by the actors’ eerie white-faced makeup and the simple yet enchanting set design. A row of quaint wooden chairs were suspended ten feet in the air around the edge of the stage, often occupied by fairies who seemed to appear from nowhere, dangling from the set and wielding instruments that provided atmospheric sound effects for each scene. When compared with the garish and graffitied Mexican-inspired set of Errors and the farcical performance that accompanied it, you could be forgiven for thinking that the two plays were performed by entirely different companies. This only serves to demonstrate the versatility of the cast and crew, as both performances were extremely impressive and side-splittingly hilarious in their own ways.
The star of Midsummer was the fairy Puck (Joseph Chance) who displayed limitless energy, and was barely off-stage throughout the entire play. When he wasn’t mischievously bounding around whilst delivering his lines he was often overseeing the other scenes, fidgeting boyishly as he watched, and occasionally providing instrumental accompaniment. Flute (Alasdair Craig) also had the audience in stitches, particularly with his portrayal of Thisbe, acting with such enthusiasm that he accidentally popped his inflatable breast. These moments of energetic farce were made even funnier by their contrast with the dreamlike quality of the majority of the performance, which is what set this performance apart from Errors which was riotous throughout.
Propeller’s all male cast provides a great glimpse into the original actress-free world of Shakespearian theatre, but with a hilarious modern twist that really brings the stories to life. Regardless of which play you choose, the performance will undoubtedly have you laughing out loud and eager for more.
Sophie Turner and Josh Giltrap