If nothing goes wrong, Shakespeare's absurd knockabout farce should guarantee any theatre a crowd-pleaser, and certainly nothing goes wrong here under Nancy Meckler's inspired direction.
Conflating the plots of two Roman comedies, Shakespeare sets up the ludicrous proposition that two sets of identical twins (each set, mysteriously, sharing the same name, and one set being servants to the other) have been separated for 30 years. He then brings them together in the same town on the same day to set off an ever more mind-boggling chain of mayhem arising from mistaken identity.
There is no other Shakespeare play that is so mechanically driven by a single device, or that gives its interpreters such a clear canvas for all the bits of business, reaction and sight gags that squeeze out the comedy between the lines.
This is where this sparkling production adds so much value, presented in a vivid Dickensian Ephesus stocked with mountebanks and puppeteers. An on-stage band with jazzy trumpet ( music by Ilona Sekacz) adds to an atmosphere of cheery anachronism.
A momentary sense of having mistakenly turned up at a Lionel Bart musical is perpetuated by the addition of a few brief songs, which neither particularly add nor detract from the main business.
It's good to see that likeable Birmingham actor Joe Dixon extracting so much laughter as Antipholus of Syracuse, the innocent abroad in this town of swindlers, thieves and, as he increasingly comes to believe, demons. If it's possible to describe a performance as a tour-de-force of bewildered and alarmed expressions, this is it.
His chief partner in comedy, Jonathan Slinger, is new to the RSC but could surely take up residence here playing Shakespeare's clowns. Dromio of Syracuse does have the best comic lines - that glorious speech about the "spherical" maid who is pursuing him in mistake for his twin, for instance.
Forbes Masson is also funny as his mirror image, but you do notice that while the twins are identical, they are not quite equal in the prominence Shakespeare gives them. If you can stop laughing for long enough you will notice that Antipholus of Ephesus (Christopher Colquhoun) is not a particularly sympathetic character. Suzanne Burden demonstrates here what a remarkably overwrought character Shakespeare has made of his long-suffering wife, Adriana.
In fact, a hard seam of cruelty underlies the farce - in the master-servant relationships as well as the draconian justice threatened, but happily averted thanks to absurd coincidence, in Ephesus.
* Running time: Two hours, 30 minutes. In repertory until October 29.