Edward Hall’s all-male company Propeller whirrs with ingenuity. For this short season at Hampstead, they’ve pimped up two very different Shakespeare plays as thrilling vehicles for a theatrical joy ride. It’s the pace, musicality and dynamic instinct of this gifted ensemble which makes their renditions such a riot.
First up is ‘The Comedy of Errors’, a thin master/servant comedy with a preposterous premise (two sets of identical twins, separated at birth, wind up in the same town). After a few directorial nips and tucks (dullness out; Blackpool Pier-style evangelist with backing band, in), it’s a lightly sequinned camp extravangaza, enjoying itself in boozy sunny climes.
Hall’s production is as rude and spry as a poke in the eye. The twin masters and their mop-haired servants, who beat each other whenever fun is required, do violent slapstick one-upmanship as naturally as Blackadder and Baldrick.
There’s a comic cameo to plug every gap – an amorous moustachioed policeman with squeaky leather trousers, sombrero-wearing musical layabouts, or a draggy, demure heroine with enough bicep power to take out the lot of them.
The textual comedy is also brilliantly revealed: when Richard Frame’s Dromio describes the fat lustful kitchen wench who pursues him as a ‘mountain of mad flesh’, he makes this imagined sight scarier than a naked exorcist with a firework up his bum (wait for act four ).