TWELFTH NIGHT: William Shakespeare
RSC, Main House. Stratford Upon Avon
Runs, 2h 50m, one interval, till 6 October (in rep)
Review: Alexander Ray, 30 04 12
Very good in parts, but lacks the depth when it’s really needed
Seeing TWELFTH NIGHT smack up against COMEDY OF ERRORS you realise exactly how much of the plot engine from the earlier play is borrowed into the second and reworked into something quite different. Except in David Farr’s production you don’t feel it’s different enough. Farr goes hell for leather for the comedy, which works well; however there is not the sense in this production (as opposed to THE TEMPEST) that each line has been examined and interpreted.
Strong are the quartet of Fabian, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria (Felix Hayes, Nicholas Day, Bruce Mackinnon, Cecelia Noble). They work well as a team fanning the comedic flame that keeps the play nicely on the boil. Jonathan Slinger’s Malvolio is mighty sinister, so full of hatred and bitterness the air freezes around him. Unusual casting is Kevin MxMonagle as Feste, but the result is extraordinary. Here’s a Feste cynical, even bitter. There is a world-weariness in his fooling . . . as if he, himself, thinks his humour is wearing thing. It builds beautifully to his revenge at the play’s conclusion.
The production misses out on the delicate nature of the sexually ambivalent love-play within the story. Jonathan McGuinness’s Orsino is young and swaggery, but I never believe in his love for anyone. Kirsty Bushell is a tempestuous and authoritative Olivia and Emily Taaffe an entirely believable boy, but neither of them convinces as a lover and both have a tendency towards an uncomfortable shrillness. Sebastian and Antonio (Stephen Hagan and Jan Knightley) are short on the love stakes too.
It may be, of course, that Farr wishes us to see how shallow these characters are. So be it, then; but you don’t have much depth in the play that’s left.
McMonaghle (Feste) sings a great deal – and uses different styles to match his attitude to great effect. Nowhere more wonderful, though, that in THE WIND AND THE RAIN; here is uses the hard tones of traditional English music style, singing without sentiment and building a bridge directly from the 17th Century to today.
Orsino: Jonathan McGuinness
Curio: Ankur Bahl
Viola: Emily Taaffe
Valentine: Sargon Yelda
Olivia: Kirsty Bushell
Sir Toby Belch: Nicholas Day
Maria: Cecilia Noble
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Bruce Mackinnon
Feste: Kevin McMonagle
Malvolio: Jonathan Slinger
Fabian: Felix Hayes
Chambermaids: Sarah Belcher, Amie Burns Walker
Captain: Sandy Grierson
Sebastian: Stephen Hagan
Antonio: Jan Knightley
Security Guards: Amer Hlehel, Solomon Israel
Priest: Sandy Grierson
Directed by: David Farr
Designed by: Jon Bausor
Lighting Designed by: Jon Clark
Music by: Adem Ilhan
Sound by: Christopher Shutt
Movement by: Isabel Mortimer
Fights by: Kev McCurdy
Company Text and Voice Work: Michael Corbidge
Assistant Director: Jamie Rocha Allan
Casting by: Hannah Miller