TWELFTH NIGHT, 4Star****, NT London. To 17 May

By William Shakespeare.
4Stars ****

The Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX to 13 May 2017.
In rep. 7.30pm. Mat 2pm.
Runs 2hr 50 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7452 3000.
Review: William Russell 25 February.

A malevolent ill done by marvellous Malvolia
The principal reason, although not the only one, for going to Simon Godwin’s more than usual gender bending production of the much performed Twelfth Night is Tamsin Greig’s superb Malvolia.

The gimmick is to have changed the sex of Olivia’s uptight steward thus turning her into a Mrs Danvers. It might not make sense in a period production, but this one is happening now and Ms Greig creates a wonderful chilly, beady eyed Lesbian monster with cruel black bobbed hair who is seething with sexual frustration. Her bursting into life – and song – when cross gartered in yellow is a joy to behold. So too is the scene by a fountain when she is gulled into believing Olivia loves her and ends up drenched with desire and fountain water.

But do not believe the photograph on the programme cover and the poster. Ms Greig’s Malvolia looks nothing like that.

The other pleasure is a notably jolly Viola from Tamara Lawrance, who makes an unusually convincing boy when she turns into Caesario. The plot involves shipwrecked twins, Viola and Sebastian, both of whom end up involved with heiress Olivia and the Duke Orsino, who is wooing Olivia in vain. Godwin has also turned Feste, Olivia’s fool, into a woman which works nicely enough – Doon Mackichan in spangled boots and hot pants is not all that funny, but then Feste is, like all Shakespeare’s clowns, not much of a joker. Another change is to play Olivia’s unwanted guests – Sir Toby Belch, her cousin, and the fortune hunting Sir Andrew Aguecheek – as younger than usual, which makes perfect sense.

Tim McMullan’s Sir Toby is a ruggerbugger to the core, while Sir Andrew is just as interested in him as in Olivia.

Add a lavish pleasant revolving set, a real car, some precipitous stairs, lots of music and the result is an entertaining although not, as it would like to be regarded, a rule breaking night. Gender bending today is terribly old hat. But it allows for a lovely moment at the end when the couples are paired off and Orsino ends up kissing a far from reluctant Sebastian. In this Illyria anything goes and is unlikely to stop.

Maybe Malvolia’s parting shot – “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you” – does not quite hit home as hard as it can do, but there is no doubt, happy ending or not, the rain is going to carry on raining every day in Illyria.

But why they all have to be wearing microphones is another matter altogether given that the production boasts someone doing voice work.

Viola: Tamara Lawrance.
Sebastian: Dane Ezra.
Orsino: Oliver Chris.
Curio: Emmanuel Kojo.
Valentine: Brad Morrison.
Captain & Priest: James Wallace.
Sir Toby Belch: Tim McMullan.
Maria: Niky Wardley.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Daniel Rigby.
Feste: Doon Mackichan.
Olivia: Phoebe Fix.
Malvolia: Tamsin Greig.
Fabia: Imogen Doel.
Servant: Whitney Kehinde.
Officer: Ammar Duffus.
Ensemble: Claire Cordier; Mary Doherty; Andrew Macbean; Imogen Slaughter.

Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting Designer: James Farbcombe.
Movement Director: Shelley Maxwell.
Music: Michael Bruce.
Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt.
Company Voice Work: Jeannette Nelson.
Fight Director: Kev McCurdy.
Staff Director: Alice Knight.

2017-02-27 09:58:02

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