I apologize in advance for the exclamation points in this paragraph. I promise the rest of the review will be devoid of them. But to begin with, this DVD is from CBC Home Video! Yay for Canadian content! And it’s the recording of a stage adaptation of the play done at Stratford! Double yay! For those not in the know, Stratford is THE place to see Canadian productions of Shakespeare. *Wistful sigh…* Also, the film is only 76 minutes! Yay for short Shakespeare films!
And with the exclamation point overload over, let’s move on to the play proper. Due to the combination of this production being more than 20 years old and it being full of stage actors, none of the characters are played by recognizable actors. That being said, they all do a great job and bring a lot of the qualities necessary to make the comedy work. Both Antipholuses are played by the same actor, similarly for the Dromios, with stand-ins that keep their backs to the audience for the final revelation scene.
The costumes and set design are actually very rich and give off a bit of a Louis XVI feel, right down to red heels on the shoes of one of the minor characters. The production has also put a strong emphasis on time in the play, with a clock on stage that chimes several times, emphasizing that all the crazy happens in the course of a single afternoon.
There’s quite a bit of slapstick, to which the play definitely lends itself and did make me chortle in a few spots. The play also makes the interesting decision to have all other characters freeze when a character has an aside or a soliloquy with the lighting changing as well. The lighting change doesn’t work as well on film as it simply looks darker if the actor is even slightly outside of their spot but would probably be very effective live.
Obviously to fit into 76 minutes, the play has been cut down but it works well and keeps you from becoming slightly irritated that no one has figured it out yet. Actually better than some of the BBC’s Complete Works of Shakespeare productions, the film isn’t a bad way to expose yourself to the play. Especially as it’s short. But I wouldn’t be rampaging out to get a copy.
While I still owe a film review for The Winter’s Tale (someone actually checked it out from the library!) which will show up next week, this is the conclusion of the comedies. Next week I’m on to the histories, starting with King John.