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Propeller Theatre Company - "Comedy of Errors"

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Propeller Theatre Company is an all-male company that specialises in Shakespeare. Last night we saw their latest production, Comedy of Errors, at the Lowry.

Edward Hall, the artistic director, directed the production. I have seen a number of their productions and I think he has a real flair for producing modern, accessible versions. There isn't much of a set and the costumes were modern and casual. The males playing the female roles are not the "Stage Beauties" of Shakespeare's day, they are men in female clothes.

The production was absolutely HILARIOUS! As with many companies the actors were multi-disciplined and played instruments; when they were not in role they were wearing sombreros as part of the ensemble and the music had a Latinish feel. During the interval the cast appeared in the vast open spaces of the Lowry foyer and gave a concert! I do not know if they are able to do this at every venue but it certainly added to the fun of the evening.

All the cast were superb in their roles and I particularly enjoyed Dugald Bruce-Lockhart's portrayal of Antipholus of Syracuse.

I noticed in the programme that the company are performing some dates in America:

Harvey Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music - 16-27 March

University Musical Society, Power Centre, Ann Arbor, Michigan - 30 March - 03 April

Huntington Theatre Co, BU Theatre, Boston - 18 May - 19 June

I would highly recommend seeing Propeller if you want an evening of laughter that leaves you feeling elated and wanting more as you leave the theatre

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the few all-male productions, aiming o'course at how these plays were originally written and cast, i've seen of Shakespeare have been most instructive - and tho' men played the female roles, they didn't do so in any form of 'high drag.' it's mostly been plain and simple and straightforward playing and costuming.

i knew a dance writer with advanced degrees in English and English/Shakespearean theater who once said having seen an amateur but very good all-male production of AS YOU LIKE IT, that having men 'behind' the women in the play made them somehow more sympathetic than when she'd seen women play the women's parts.

in a number of cases, o'course, Shakespeare's female characters are shown playing men, thus having the man playing the woman, play the man.

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As far as I can make out, Propeller doesn’t aspire to be originalist in intent – the company casts mature men in women’s clothes. Nothing wrong with that, if it’s your cup of tea. Not having seen them, I can’t judge.

The plays were originally cast with boys and very young men. The plays are generally the better for having actual women in them, IMO, even if they were written under the constraint of the knowledge that women could not be cast. (I think the practice probably hurt plays like Antony and Cleopatra, although it gave us some fine poetry as Shakespeare had to have other characters tell us about Cleopatra’s attractions rather than rely on a charismatic actress to help him show them to us.)

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