by William Shakespeare.
The French Protestant Church to 9 April
8-9 Soho Square, London W1D 3QD to 9 April 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 23 March.
Glorious venue and a stylish production
This is a smartly dressed and directed version of Shakespeare’s comedy of sexual confusion, but putting plays on in churches presents hazards which this ambitious company does not overcome.
One is, of course, the seating and the pews in this very handsome church are horribly uncomfortable. The other is the acoustic. Churches resonate, and while an echo may lend something to the singing of psalms and sermonising it can make understanding Shakespearian language, always a hurdle to overcome at the best of times, very tricky indeed.
Director Cecilia Dorlan springs no surprises, although the smallness of the company does lead to some tricky doubling of roles. Martin Prest, who plays a very high camp Malvolio, manages best at looking much the same but being different people. Casting Clare Brice, a suitably pert Maria, as Sebastian, Viola’s lost twin brother, however, presents problems. She not only looks nothing like Harriet Hare, who plays Viola, but she is blonde whereas Ms Hare has raven tresses, which makes nonsense of the confusions that lie at the heart of the plot as is the fact Ms Hare is all woman and no boy.
Duke Orsino, in love with the heiress Olivia, a statuesque Emma Hall, sends his page, Caesario – actually Viola disguised as a man – to do his wooing. She falls for Caesario who, in love with Orsino, tries to run a mile. Then along comes Sebastian. Meanwhile Olivia’s factor, Malvolio, a proud and would-be upwardly mobile man, is gulled by the hangers on in her household into thinking she loves him. No plot spoilers there one hopes.
The acting is fine, the verse speaking, given that resonant acoustic, good, but making Malvolio a high camp dolt is a big mistake. Nobody can make the hanger’s on – Olivia’s drunken sponging relative Sir Toby Belch and the dim knight Sir Andrew Aguecheek who would wed her – funny. They are Shakespeare’s least amusing clowns, jokes long past their sell by date, while her maid, Maria, with whom they plot to gull Malvolio, is a nasty piece of work, only slightly less nasty than the other plotter, the grasping jester Feste, nicely done by a whey faced Edward Fisher. Malvolio has to be treated seriously.
He really is a man ill done to by his so-called social betters, not a puffed up cockscomb but a Puritan, a man with aspirations to better himself in a world where one did not cross the social divides.
The church is – by the way – quite magnificent.
Duke Orsino: Pip Brignall.
Curio: Jack Christie.
Viola: Harriet Hare.
Captain: Thomas Winsor.
Sir Toby Belch: Jack Christie.
Maria: Clare Brice.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Thomas Winsor.
Feste: Edward Fisher.
Olivia: Emma Hall.
Malvolio: Martin Prest.
Antonio: David Keogh.
Sebastian: Clare Brice.
Fabian: David Keogh.
Officer/Priest: Martin Prest
Director: Cecilia Dorland.
Choreographer: Darren Royston.
Music: Jean-Philippe Martinez..
Costumes: Georgia Green.
Set Design: Edward Fisher.