The Comedy of Errors (More or Less) (North Shakespeare Theatre, Prescott)
The verdict: It’s fun up north
Top Girls (Everyman Theatre, Liverpool)
The verdict: off-peak
Locals can hardly believe it themselves. In Shakespeare’s day, the sleepy eastern Liverpool suburb of Prescott was an Elizabethan Las Vegas: a market town where people flocked for gambling, merriment, and. . . stage!
The handsome new theater, which opened here in the fall, aims to refill that energy with a lively program that continues with an endearing parody of the Bard’s major mistaken identity, The Comedy Of Errors.
Only here, the play has been updated as a Lancashire and Yorkshire confrontation in 1980s Scarborough (and, as it happens, is staged there, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, afterwards).
Shakespeare’s poetry has been updated, with powerful modern couplets, by Nick Lane and Elizabeth Godber – daughter of Hull’s most famous (before Richard Bean) playwright, John Godber. Godber Jr. and Lynn lit up the stage with their hilarious beachside cartoons.
The plot details are quite intricate, but suffice it to say that one of the long-lost twins, Antipholus of Prescott, bumps into Scarborough and is distraught to find himself mistaken for the husband of wealthy heiress Adriana.
But what makes this great fun are the spotty characters, including David Kirkbride’s double act (pictured) as Antipholus of Prescot and Scarborough
The confusion is partly orchestrated by installer (pictured) Andy Cryer in a shell suit, Pinch (“Suppliers pay with pliers”)
Although the play is cleaned up for political correctness, this does not prevent the language from being scathingly Northern. “I think he takes a p***!” one cries. `Shut your bun hole, you slacker,’ another barks. The age guidance of more than ten years seems broad-minded.
But what makes this great fun are the spotty characters, including David Kirkbride’s double acting as Antipholus of Prescot and Scarborough.
The former ends up in a gigantic “99” ice cream costume, while the latter runs afoul of Claire Eden payday lender Big Sandra (“I’ll Fool Him – He Owe Me Copper”).
And the confusion is orchestrated in part by Andy Cryer’s installer in a shell suit, Pinch (“My suppliers get paid with pliers”).
No attempt should be made to follow the logic of Paul Robinson’s amazing production. Just trust that he’s got his head around Shakespeare’s plot engineering for us. Yes, she boosts her luck by running for the better part of three hours. But with ’80s chart hits from Billy Joel to Whitesnake, they make audiences laugh and sing along.
Carly Churchill’s 1980s classic Top Girls, about the director of a staffing agency, Marilyn, gets a more modest makeover at Everyman in Liverpool.
Moving from its original setting of London and Norfolk – to London and Liverpool – it’s an intervention slightly tamed by the theatre’s new regime, led by PC Creative Director Suba Das.
It begins with Marilyn inviting women—including ninth-century Pope Joan—to dinner to discuss the trials of being female throughout the ages.
There is no such ambivalence about Das’ production, which begins with our thanks for sharing the non-binary values of the cast
The action then shifts to Marilyn’s agency and the pressures facing professional women.
But the most interesting thing is the contradiction of Churchill’s records on professional independence, through the child Marilyn abandoned to her sister’s care.
On the one hand, Churchill seems to be celebrating women’s liberation from being second-class citizens in the workforce. On the other hand, you paint career ambition as requiring a high personal cost.
There is no such ambivalence about Das’ production, which begins with our thanks for sharing the non-binary values of the cast.
Marilyn from Tala Gouveia is certainly smart, but she seems more confused than guilty or agitated.
Only Alicia Eyo, as her sister Joyce, really makes us feel her character’s resentment at having to raise Marilyn’s child and take care of their mother.
Still, we must wish Das well in his mission to put Everyman back on the map as the Scouse force that was at its height.