Delicious comedy, without error

Royal Shakespeare Company The Comedy of Errors APA Lyric Theatre February 5 SHAKESPEARE'S shortest and funniest play, Britain's premier company and all the brilliance of the West End arrived on the Lyric stage last night.

This was theatre of the kind Hongkong almost never sees and the experience will linger long and deliciously.

Who would have thought that this convoluted 16th century farce could have a latter 20th century audience roaring with laughter and relishing every word, but then we had been warned. This is the production, after all, which took three Olivier Awards lastyear - and how richly deserved they are.

In casting Desmond Barrit as both the Antipholus twins, director Ian Judge hit on both a cunning solution and an inspired choice.

Never once does Barrit lose credibility - or his marvellous sense of comic timing, tinged liberally with music hall antics. For a big man, he is astonishingly nimble and just as effective when prone. Of the great moments in British theatre, few can equal the sight of Barrit, flat on his back and magnificent paunch shuddering with mirth.

Equally adroit is Neil Caple in his dual role as the Dromio twins - a perfect foil for Barrit - while the women in this piece are a sheer delight.

Estelle Kohler triumphs as Adriana, playing that aggrieved spouse with a righteous fury calculated to make any mere male tremble and Serena Evans (Luciana) lives up to her name - all coy calmness before the storm.

Some wonderful cameos come from several, most notably Diane Langton, resplendent in her bosom-busting dress and monstrous beehive hairdo, and David Killick whose Dr Pinch looks like a nightmare from the Paris haute couture shows.

Enhancing all are Mark Thompson's sets and costumes. They dazzle with their colour, amaze with their ingenuity and are simply gorgeous to look at. In short, magical.