You are browsing our archive of past reviews. Shows often evolve and develop as time goes on, so the views expressed here may not be an accurate reflection of current productions.

As a kid, I never understood why some Shakespeare plays are called 'comedies'; they always seemed so resolutely unfunny. I wish the Bristol Old Vic Student Ensemble had been on hand back then, because their Comedy of Errors is energetic, accessible, and above all entertaining. Billed as suitable for ages 3 and up, it's a lightly made-over version of the story, simple enough for the young ones to follow but with plenty of witty nuance for the grown-ups too.

Subtle, well-conceived adaptations explain and clarify the storyline, while a few judicious updates make the world of Shakespeare's Ephesus that bit easier to understand. The unfortunate Egeon's ransom is initially set at a "thousand pounds"; only once that concept is securely established does the more faithful "thousand marks" creep in. And while they do – despite protestations to the contrary – end up doing substantial tracts of dialogue 'in modern', these contemporary embellishments have a rhythm and a humour which sits well alongside the original prose.

Yet it's the physicality of the performance that impresses the most. This is a show filled with movement and flourish; the set is simple and the stage fairly small, but the story and the ensemble's imagination never feel constrained. The comedy is enhanced by oddball little details – watch out for the delightfully camp talking furniture – and for all that this is notionally a student company, there's undoubted professional-level skill on display. A few of the visual gags rely on split-second timing, and on the day I attended, each and every one of them was delivered with flawless aplomb.

It feels a shame to pick out individuals from such a tight ensemble, but I did especially enjoy Oscar Porter's interpretation of the two Dromios – one of them posh and oh-so cool, the other more shady and streetwise. Rosie Taylor-Ritson deserves mention too for her Courtesan, a family-friendly Pied Piper figure who shamelessly bewitches all she meets. But these are, I must stress, merely my personal highlights among a uniformly likeable and multi-talented cast.

Maybe they lose some momentum now and then, and one or two of the jokes don't land as cleanly as they'd hoped – but the audible enthusiasm of the kids on the front row was enough to trump any jaded sense of perfectionism. This Comedy of Errors is a true delight: effervescent and creative, respectful of the essence of Shakespeare's text without being overly beholden to it. If you've got young ones to bring along, it's hard to imagine a better introduction to Bardic comedy. And if you haven't – well, sneak in anyway. There's plenty here for every generation to enjoy.