Theatre iNQ’s much-loved Shakespeare Under the Stars is back next week; this time transporting one of the Bard’s earliest works through time and space in what promises to be a gun-slingin’, side-splittin’, darn-tootin’ romp in Queens Gardens.
While it’s a pretty safe bet that old Will didn’t intend for The Comedy of Errors to take place in the Wild, Wild West (he pre-dated the era by a good 300 years), that little detail couldn’t possibly keep Terri Brabon, Brendan O’Connor and their quick-drawin’ posse from making it happen.
“When you look at a Western, it’s the last genre where we accept those forms of stock characters,” said Teri. “So it fit super well and also the idea of the play has all these doors – it’s a farce, so these characters are supposed to come in and out of all these doors. Once you have a germ of an idea, if it’s the right idea, everything seems to land on top of that.”
The premise is one of the classic “Parent Trap” scenario (though probably a little more classic than anything Lindsay Lohan has to her credit) – shenanigans set in motion by twins and the hilarious cases of mistaken identity they cause by crossing paths unbeknownst to anyone else.
“The pre-story is that there’s been a family that was split by shipwreck,” Terri explained. “There’s a set of twins that was born to that mother and father and they also adopted – or bought as slaves basically – another set of twins that were born on the same day. So there’s two sets of twins and on the shipwreck they were split apart. One set knows of the other’s existence because they were landed with their father, and the other set got split from their mother as well. And what happens on this fateful day is they end up in the same town.
“It’s a complete farce, it’s probably one of the most straight forward comedies [Shakespeare] ever wrote. There’s no big, in-depth [moral]. There are no dense characters. It’s pure, pure, unadulterated comedy from beginning to end.”
It’s easy to imagine how swinging saloon doors and high-noon hijinks would be a natural fit.
“I think also because it’s the South, the girls have got an opportunity to play that sort of Southern Belle character,” Brendan adds “that kind of mollycoddled where wealth and class went together. And this story’s a lot about wealth, a lot about money and a lot about class. The South was very much a trading place. Very much about business, particularly in that era before the Civil War and that’s what this town was all about – it’s all about trading and wealth.
“Also, with television shows like Deadwood, which was all written in iambic pentameter, the language is very much the language of that period when you listen to it you just go ‘wow, it’s so Shakespearian’, so putting Shakespeare’s language in this period, particularly in the South of America in the 1860s and 70s, it really fits well. It fits surprisingly well. I think it fits even better than I thought it would.”
It’s a very different take on the show, which Teri, Brendan and guest actor Syd Brisbane performed with the Australian Shakespeare Company eight years ago. The trio will reprise the same characters they played in Melbourne in 2000: Brendan and Syd as the Dromio twins and Terri as Adriana.
“On the first day of rehearsal, I burst on playing the Adriana I played eight years ago and it felt completely forced and not at all right,” Terri said “The style’s very different and the person I’m acting with the most at the moment – the way she’s playing the character is very different from the actress who played that role.”
However, this fresh take is sure to be in safe hands, with Syd throwing his seal of approval behind Theatre iNQ’s well-earned reputation.
“It’s easy to say ‘oh they’re one of the best companies I’ve ever worked with’ but that’s not a throw-away line,” said Syd. “I think Shakespeare can really vary incredibly in terms of the quality of direction and what boat you’re rowing. So sometimes, you might see a Shakespeare show where X actor or B actor is very good, but the whole show left you pretty cold. The thing about Terri’s direction is that everyone knows what show they’re in. Everyone’s rowing the same boat and there’s a really high standard, a high quality of work. I certainly don’t come up to Townsville and think ‘oh well, I’m in Townsville, I can take it easy’, I know that I’ve got to be on my A-game to be up to the standard that the company expects and demands of everyone who works with them.”
Saddle up for The Comedy of Errors at Queens Gardens from 18-30 September, with tickets available at theatreinq.com