Ipswich: Red Rose Chain get hot and spicy down on Jimmy’s Farm - behind the scenes of Theatre in the Forest

The cast of Red Rose Chain's Theatre in the Forest production of The Comedy of Errors

The cast of Red Rose Chain's Theatre in the Forest production of The Comedy of Errors - Credit: Archant

One word sums up The Comedy of Errors, the first of Red Rose Chain’s two Theatre in the Forest shows this year. Hot.

The cast of last year's Taming of the Shrew

The cast of last year's Taming of the Shrew - Credit: Archant

“This year there are some beats in this show,” says Anna Doolan, sparking raucous laughter and cries of “oh yeah there are” from cast-mate Laurence Pears.

“Our hips move and they don’t lie. It’s hot,” continues Doolan, who’s playing Adriana, prompting accusations of laziness from everybody else who are tackling multiple roles.

“It’s got rhythm of the soul,” says Pears, playing one of the twin Dromio’s of the piece, a glint in his eye as talk turns to salsa-ing and rhumba-ing. “We introduced dancing to the forest last year. This year we’ve upped the ante.”

Talking of upping the ante, if you thought Kirsty Thorpe’s Kate was a handful in last year’s Taming of the Shrew wait until you meet Adriana.

Red Rose Chain artistic director Jo Carrick.

Red Rose Chain artistic director Jo Carrick.

“She’s great, she’s WILD... she can get very angry very quickly,” says Doolan.

“Kate built up to it,” interupts Thorpe. “Adriana starts angrier.”

Most Read

“I might be small but...” says Doolan, cut off as Pears says: “Kate you could kind of understand why she was getting angry, Adriana - she just angry.”

“I don’t think her husband’s ideal,” counters Thorpe.

Edward Day as King Lear with puppet Jeremy as the Fool in King Lear

Edward Day as King Lear with puppet Jeremy as the Fool in King Lear - Credit: Archant

“She’s also very flirty and loves the attention, the control - whenever she wants to get anything she’ll get it. She’s dangerous, you wouldn’t mess with her, absolutely not,” concludes Doolan.

The cast - Thorpe, Doolan, Pears and newcomers Daniel Abbott, Tristan Pate and Lucy Telleck - are like kids on Christmas eve. Full of energy and - when I spoke to them - clearly raring for the fun to begin.

“Hysterically brilliant is how it’s going, it’s been so much fun. Craziness,” laughs Thorpe, playing one of the twin Antipholus of the play and Emilia, who she describes as a funky nun, prompting questioning looks from everybody else.

“I’m having a ball...,” laughs Telleck, playing the two most contrasting characters in the whole story, aged goldsmith Angelo and Adriana’s prissy twin sister Luciana. “We’re having fun finding the similarities.”

On cue, she and Doolan launch into their practised joint laugh, it’s uncannily similar to the one I hear when I tell jokes at parties.

“It’s so fun, nothing but laughs in rehearsals.”

Rehearsals were nearing an end when I caught up with the cast at the company’s Gippeswyk Hall HQ, with everybody now more comfortable in their roles.

Abbott, the other Antipholus in the mix, also plays the twins’ father Egeon.

“He’s one on paper who you see him in a certain way; in rehearsal,” he laughs, “he’s definitely morphed into something very different so that will be fun.”

They’re all very used to each other too with Pate, playing the other Dromio twin, and Pears falling over themselves to compliment the other.

“This isn’t like any other character I’ve played before so working with Larry, who I think is quite a natural comedian, it’s quite good to follow what he’s doing with the character...”

“No,” interupts Pears, adopting a comedic luvvy tone to everybody’s amusement, “you crack me up, he makes me laugh.”

“Larry immediately brings you out of yourself and your take on the character, it’s a shared take so it’s something that wouldn’t occur to you on your own.”

Talking of falling over each other sparks memories of last year’s mishaps - Thorpe being clothes-lined, prompting Pears’ ad-lib about “watching thy step”; Joel Johnson getting headbutted into the ground, Pears injuring himself by kicking a tree.

“I’m over it,” he jokes. “It only hurts when I walk.”

Shakespeare’s Errors, the tale of two sets of identical twins accidentally separated at birth and their wild mishaps based on mistaken identities, they say, is a brilliant play and there’s some great stuff going on.

“It’s full of ideas and ingenuity,” says Pate. There’s a lot of clarity to it as well, adds Pears: “We’re really looking at how to find even more comedy by delving into it and not being afraid of it.”

“The vast majority of it is going to be funny, hopefully,” laughs writer and director Joanna Carrick. “There will be some atmospheric, romantic moments to it which I think is really nice. It’s not just all slapstick, it’s about 90% slapstick...”

The shadow of last year’s spectacularly good The Taming of the Shrew - we liked it so much we went back for seconds - looms large.

“Forget last year, it’s gone,” says Pears, prompting nods of agreement from everybody.

Carrick is the first to admit last year’s show was an immense experience. Wanting, not just needing, to be there night after night, the reaction of the audience was completely overwhelming.

“We literally got 500-600 people on their feet every single night... I kept saying to the guys ‘remember this, this is really special’.”

Coming into rehearsals this year, she felt pressured to make The Comedy of Errors and Wuthering Heights amazing.

“It’s dependant on the play. It’s a brilliant play, Errors, but there were certain things about Shrew that just worked incredibly well. I’m feeling more confident about this because we’ve got some great stuff going on and we’ve been doing a lot of planning together.

“I reckon we’re going to be standing by the path, people are going to be leaving and they’re going to be saying to me ‘that’s even better than last year’. I genuinely feel like that.”

Thorpe says it’s important to remember Theatre in the Forest’s 15-year journey. Part of the youth theatre, she was in the audience that very first show and thought it was the best thing she’d seen outside.

“The next year it was bigger, the year after that, every year whether I’ve been watching or been in the show it’s like ‘it’s the best one’.”

You can’t go on like that forever though counters Carrick, waiting for the time when the audience says “it was great, wasn’t quite as good as last year, but you know”.

Pate brings us back to the fact audiences get different flavours from different material though. Case in point, Red Rose Chain’s production of King Lear a few years back.

“It was a really, really unusual production... Very unlike any production of Lear you would ever have seen. It took a few days, in all honesty, for me to get it to work. I wasn’t 100% happy with it on the preview and I did have a moment when I sat with my head in my hands thinking ‘oh my god what have I done’? In my whole career there’s going to be a show that doesn’t quite work and maybe this is the one,” remembers Carrick, who loves subverting tragedies unexpectedly.

“With Lear we subverted the whole thing. I worked on it for a few days and by the time we got to the press night it worked really well. I love that show when I think back to it but I also feel slightly weird about it because as a production of Lear it was quite strange. People still say to me ‘of all your shows I love King Lear, that was the funniest, most uplifting production you can ever imagine seeing’.”

It was via Lear that Pears found out about Red Rose Chain.

“Somebody said ‘there was this production of King Lear in the forest that was just insane’. Another two said they’d seen it and ‘it shouldn’t have worked and it worked. They took Shakespeare and made it fun again, leading you away from your pre-conceived notions of it being drab’.”

The Comedy of Errors gives the cast licence to be ridiculous, not that they’d go straight with tragedy next time around points out Carrick.

Also looming over them is second play Wuthering Heights, which the cast - bolstered by Rachael McCormick and Johnson, the latter present in cardboard cut-out form only when I popped by - are rehearsing during the day.

“The concept Jo is going for... one it’s not Shakespeare so that makes it different. Errors has all sorts going on, with Wuthering Heights we’ve all got a dedicated part, it’s an ensemble piece, not that I think it’s going to be ‘it’s Wuthering Heights day guys, chill out’,” says Thorpe, sparking laughter. “And the sets for both are amazing.”

“Having two extra actors, who are both lovely and brilliant, will help immensely because they’ll be two people who haven’t done Errors who can bring fresh energy to Wuthering Heights,” smiles Carrick.

The Comedy of Errors runs at Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, from July 8-August 2. Wuthering Heights runs from August 6-24.

Check out the Archant Suffolk YouTube channel for more from the cast and a sneak peek at one of the scenes.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter