We find ourselves in the busy port of Ephesus, where we encounter some extremely strange behaviour – and perhaps a song or two…
Egeon, a Merchant of Syracuse, has been caught by the authorities for trespassing on forbidden soil and condemned to death. He explains to the Duke of Ephesus, Solinus, that over twenty years ago his family were split apart by an almighty sea storm leaving his twin sons, both called Antipholus, and their twin manservants, both called Dromio, separated. Having last seen his wife Emilia as she clung to one Antipholus and one Dromio in the storm, Egeon has been in search of them ever since. The Duke, taking pity on Egeon gives him until sunset to pay a ransom in order to avoid execution.
Quite coincidentally and unbeknownst to Egeon, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse have also arrived in Ephesus on the same search for their long-lost twin brothers after a seven-year quest taking them around the globe. And unknown to everyone, the other Antipholus and Dromio have been living in Ephesus for quite some time.
Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, mistakes Antipholus of Syracuse for her husband and drags him home for dinner, leaving Dromio of Syracuse to stand guard at the door and admit no one. Shortly thereafter, Antipholus of Ephesus (with his slave Dromio of Ephesus) returns home and is refused entry to his own house. Meanwhile, Antipholus of Syracuse has fallen in love with Luciana, Adriana’s sister, who is appalled at the behaviour of the man she thinks is her brother-in-law.
The confusion increases when a gold chain ordered by the Antipholus of Ephesus is given to Antipholus of Syracuse. Antipholus of Ephesus refuses to pay for the chain (unsurprisingly, since he never received it) and is arrested for debt.
Antipholus of Syracuse and his slave decide to flee the city, which they believe to be enchanted –only to be menaced by Adriana and the debt officer. They seek refuge in a nearby abbey.
Adriana now begs the Duke to intervene and remove her “husband” from the abbey into her custody. Her real husband, meanwhile, has broken loose and now comes to the Duke and levels charges against his wife.
The situation is finally resolved by the Abbess, Emilia, who recognising Egeon, reveals herself to be his long-lost wife and both sets of twins are reunited.
Antipholus of Ephesus reconciles with Adriana; Egeon is pardoned by the Duke and restored to his spouse; Antipholus of Syracuse resumes his romantic pursuit of Luciana, and all ends happily with the two Dromios embracing.
Solinus, Duke of Ephesus
Egeon / Officer
Antipholus of Syracuse
Dromio of Syracuse
Antipholus of Ephesus
Dromio of Ephesus
Abbess / Luce
Courtesan / First Merchant
Balthasar / Pinch
I’m slightly ashamed to say I had not come across The Comedy of Errors until it was announced that PSF would be programming it for their 2019 summer season. The first thing I noticed was how quickly everything happens in the play! The action starts in the morning and concludes by sun down. I believe The Tempest is the only other Shakespeare play that is set in one location over the course of one day. This offers an urgency and realism to the story, especially as we know that at the end of the day Egeon may face execution.
Set in a bustling seaport with merchants and travellers populating the streets and featuring in the plot, it seemed natural to root it solidly in that environment incorporating seafaring traditions. I started listening to a lot of sea shanties and became aware of how much they mention missing loved ones, how far away they are and how they long to be home. This seemed so appropriate for our two sets of twins who have been lost from each other for many years. Antipholus of Syracuse beautifully describes feeling like a drop of water in an ocean seeking another drop – bereft of his other half. Thus exploring a world in which this nomadic community comes and goes, whilst longing for their version of home, is where we began.
The play also lays host to some wonderful and very enduring women. They put up with a fair amount of nonsense both from their husbands and in business. I’m very keen wherever possible to switch up the gender balance in classic plays and am happy to say that we have achieved a cast of over 50 percent women. I hope changing the roles of the Duke and Angelo to female gives us a more rounded sense of variety within the Ephesusian community, putting even more pressure on both sets of twins to resolve the mix up and showing the authority of the town does not just lie with the men.
Researching the performance history of the play, it is clear there is a great fondness for its musical potential, and physically comedic opportunities emerging from large-scale mistaken identity, a staple of all the great Shakespearean comedies. And so with the wonderful music maestro Edward Court, movement genius Patricia Suarez and fantastic cast, we hope our nautical interpretation will provide great fun, song and dance! On a personal level, I’m absolutely delighted to join the PSF family, which also reunites me with several of my own family members based in this wonderful town.
Master Carpenter / Scenic Artist
Deputy Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
Front of House Manager
Box Office Manager
Clare Glancy and Lucy Hollis