A case of mistaken identity about two sets of twins who are are separated at birth.
This was my first time into one of the auditoriums of the National Theatre. I initially got a bit lost inside the building as I couldn’t see which was the way to the Olivier auditorium but thankfully a staff member saw the confusion in my face and helped me out. In the main foyer there was a band playing some songs (country music) and it made me wish that I had arrived a bit earlier so that I could’ve heard more of their set as it was rather pleasant.
I was sat in the Stalls, Row L, Seat 6. At 6 foot tall the legroom was good, the stagnation of seats between rows very good, and the rake excellent. I had a fantastic and unobstructed view of the entire stage. I really like the layout of this theatre and got the impression that one would have a decent view from almost any seat given that the stage is rounded and so those on the sides (like my seat was) won’t miss anything. I wish more theatre’s in the West End were like this one.
As always, for a wider variety of seating opinions, check out the Theatre Monkey website.
The play starts off with an elderly Syracusian man being arrested for his presence in Ephesus (where no Syracusian merchants are allowed by law). In order to escape execution he must pay a fine of 1000 marks.
He tells the Duke his sad story of when he was young he had purchased the twins of a poor woman to be slaves to his own twin sons. Soon afterwards, he, his wife, his baby twin sons and the baby twin slaves make a sea voyage during which there is a storm. He is rescued with one of his twin sons and one of the twin slaves. His wife is also rescued but by another boat with the other twin son and twin slave. However, he never sees her, or the children she took with her, again. The boys he saved grow into men and set off to find their brothers but he had not heard from them in years and so set off to find them, which is how he ended up on Ephesus.
The rest of the plot then revolves around the Syracusian twins being mistaken for the Ephesian twins, and vice-versa, throughout the rest of the play. This results in wrongful beatings, a near-seduction (at least in one case as I think the other might’ve been sucesful), an arrest, accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession.
When the play started I found it very difficult to understand what anyone was saying because they were using old Shakespearian English. I never liked studying Shakespeare when I was at school because I never understood any of it (though to be fair I didn’t understand most of what I read in my early teens, and it wasn’t until I was 18 that I started to read books independently).
This was the first time I’ve ever seen any Shakespeare live and initially thought it would be a dull evening and a waste of time given my inability to understand what was being said. However, once I understood the rhythm of the speech I was able to get the gist of what was spoken. Anything I didn’t understand from the speech I was able to infer from the actions and reactions of the cast and audience.
There is something very entertaining and endearing about hearing long multisyllabic words spoken in a non-posh accent. I wish I knew how to construct and speak sentences full of such lovely words.
The production uses contemporary scenery and props to escape the trappings of being set during a much ear. As I understand it, the original play was also contemporary and so therefore I have no issues with the update (plus it makes it easier to understand what is going on in my opinion). However, even I’m mistaken about the original play being contemporary for it’s time, as a novice, I still found the update helpful.
Most of the Play was predictable but still enjoyable. I even liked the happy ending even though I usually prefer bitter sweet endings. I thought the leads did a fantastic job and really made be believe in the characters they were portraying. Also, the scene changes had a set of musicians appear on stage sing a short contemporary and popular song (in a foreign language) while the set is changed behind them.
Overall, I did enjoy the play and, if given the opportunity, would now happily watch another Shakespearian play as I’m beginning to see what all the fuss about him is.