by William Shakespeare.
St Paul’s Church Covent Garden Bedford Street WC2E 9ED To 24 July 2015.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: William Russell 30 June.
Everything in the garden’s lovely.
Iris Theatre are back in the garden of the actor’s church with a rough and ready, but hugely enjoyable staging of this play about shipwrecked twins, lecherous hangers-on, and mistaken identities.
The cast does sterling work since there are only eight players and this involves some tricky doubling. Tony Bell does a gorgeously pompous North Country Malvolio and a nicely muted Antonio, the sole loser in the play as he is the one who does not get his love at the end.
There is a dazzling turn as well from Henry Wyrley-Birch, who not only plays Sebastian, one of the shipwrecked twins, but also Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the geekish knight who is trying to woo the rich Olivia, a nicely elegant Olivia Onyehara.
Sebastian is a pretty dull role, but Sir Andrew is one of Shakespeare’s funnier grotesques and Wyrley-Birch manages some rather impressive physical tics to create a hilarious comic figure. His best moment comes when Sir Andrew and Sebastian have to fight one another.
As Viola, his shipwrecked twin sister who dresses up as a boy, the diminutive Pepter Lunkuse makes a nicely feisty young man. However, we do have to stretch our imaginations somewhat to pretend we can’t tell Viola and Sebastian apart. It is a tribute to both that it hardly matters – which is probably the point.
The church gardens are charming, and director Vik Sivalingam has kept things moving briskly, while the players manage to get their lines across with impressive clarity.
There may be no birdsong, but there is a small amount of noise from the adjacent piazza. When things move inside the church for the final scenes, however, they do have problems with a wretched acoustic, strange given this is the actor’s church where lines get declaimed with great regularity.
Malvolio/Antonio: Tony Bell.
Feste: Nick Howard-Brown.
Viola: Pepter Lunkuse.
Sir Toby Belch: Robert Maxwell.
Orsino/Officer: Julian Moore-Cook.
Olivia/Captain: Olivia Onyehara.
Maria/Priest: Anne-Marie Piazza.
Sebastian/Aguecheek: Henry Wyrley-Birch.
Director: Vik Sivalingam.
Designer/Costume: Carys Board.
Lighting: Benjamin Polya.
Sound: Filipe Gomes.
Composer: Harry Blake.