Stratford Upon Avon, London
Twelfth Night: William Shakespeare
RSC: Main House
Runs: 2h 45m, one interval, to 24 February 2018
Review: Rod Dungate, 18 November 2017
This production is a masterpiece
Christopher Luscombe’s production is stunning. With judicious editing and moving of sections of text, Luscombe and his team have placed Illyria in a place we understand, a place in the real world or one that has the pleasant feel of reality. With an excellent score from Nigel Hess and inspired references to Music Hall and Gilbert and Sullivan there is, too, a powerful sense of time.
Within a framework of a show (and one, it’s hinted at, we should not take too seriously) the actors, because they understand their time and place, understand and create too, their place in this world. The total effect is mind-blowingly beautiful. The balance between reality and illusion is delicate and nurtured in the production.
Nowhere could this be more evident than in the performances of Feste and Malvolio (Beruce Khan and Adrian Edmondson). Neither of them strains after the comic; they are still funny, but we do not tire of them. Khan magically captures both the wit and sadness of Feste. Edmondson is quietly menacing; his parting shot to take revenge on the pack of us is chilling – we realise he has learned nothing, and perhaps note that in a few years he will close the theatres completely. John Hodgkinson pulls off a similar coup with his Sir Toby; he may be a bit of an oaf but we never forget his status. One of the greatest moments in the evening is when the group (plus Sir Andrew and Maria) sing their catch – a cleverly transported ‘Wind and the Rain’). They sing joyously, boisterously, but well, so much like a favourite Music Hall number I was surprised we weren’t invited to join in the chorus (I was ready.) When Malvolio stops the song we (like the other characters) despise him as a kill-joy. It’s a marvellous moment.
Donta Gohil creates a charming Viola. She may seem the epitome of an innocent abroad, but she has the power to mine deep emotions and her ‘grief on the monument’ speech was beautifully handled. The sexual electricity between Viola (he, at this point) and Orsino vibrates in the air, taking us dramatically to this play’s ambiguous centre.
You will never see this play better presented.
Sebastian : Ash Alladi
Valentine: Tom Byrne
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Michael Cochrane
Police Inspector / Merchant / Footman: James Gont
Sir Toby Belch: John Hodgkinson
Parlour Maid: Verity Kirk
Maria: Vivien Parry
Antonio: Giles Taylor
Fabia: Sarah Twomey
Orsino: Nicholas Bishop
Kitchen Maid: Sally Cheng
Malvolio: Adrian Edmondson
Viola: Donta Gohil
Feste: Beruce Khan
Curio: Luke Latchman
Footman / Police Officer / Station Porter: Joseph Provesn
Olivia: Kara Tointon
Sea Captain / Police Officer / Station Master: Jamie Tyler
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Designer: Simon Higlett
Lighting: Tim Mitchell
Music: Nigel Hess
Sound: Jeremy Dunn
Movement: Jenny Arnold
Fights: Kev McCurdy