by William Shakespeare.
Duke of York’s To 27 February 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 13 Feb 2pm.
Captioned 11 Feb.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7623.
www.ambassadortickets.com/twelfthnight (booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 December.
Enthusiastically received in Stratford*; here are reflections from the London transfer.
Near-drowned Viola wants to know where she’s washed up, and any production worth its salt-water should decide where its Illyria is situated. Gregory Doran has placed it in that cradle where Europe is influenced by, if not actually meeting, the East. Picking, with typical acumen, on Sebastian’s generally unnoticed line about visiting “the relics of this town,” Doran relates the play in place and period to the Byronic Grand Tour, shoved eastward by the disruptions of Napoleon’s warfare.
No character benefits more than Duke Orsino. Somehow this lovelorn lord has to be up to inspiring the miraculous Viola, with her freshness, wit and resilience. Jo Stone-Fewings gives him a deeply-felt yet purposeful identity, seen with his courtiers towelling-down after a doubtless brisk swim or buttoning his military uniform.
This has a pay-off at the end where both he and Nancy Carroll’s vibrant Viola/Cesario find a human urgency amid the shocked confusion. It’s rarely seemed so near-tragic, a reminder how much deeper Shakespeare takes the twin idea than in his earlier Comedy of Errors.
Elsewhere, the production’s publicity icon Richard Wilson is an initially subdued Malvolio. The letter-reading scene has been far funnier, but rarely, if ever, has it had the moving moment where Wilson’s Malvolio reaches the edge of tears of delight on “My lady loves me.” He’s a figure more sympathetic for being simultaneously so ridiculous. And certainly not deserving the cruelly extended toying with of the prison scene. His final cry of revenge comes after he’s left the scene; his disappearance and threat twin signs of a shamed dignity.
Richard McCabe’s Sir Toby is relentlessly unpleasant, both to Maria who, we’re told loves and marries him; then rightly, here chucks him soon after. He’s unkind too to James Fleet’s delicately naïve Sir Andrew, a hopeless case sponged upon by Toby as is Rodrigo by Iago (“put money in thy purse”) in Othello. Both use a more naïve man’s hopeless sexual pursuit for their profit, and here, as elsewhere, Doran’s production, despite moments of wild whooping revelry, leaves no doubt how close to tragedy this great comedy can come.
Orsino: Jo Stone-Fewings.
Curio: Ashley Taylor-Rhys.
Valentine: Laurence Dobiesz.
Olivia: Alexandra Gilbreath.
Sir Toby Belch: Richard McCabe.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: James Fleet.
Malvolio: Richard Wilson.
Maria: Pamela Nomvete.
Feste: Miltos Yerolemou.
Fabian: Tony Jaywardena.
Attendant Ladies: Demi Oyediran, Maya Wasowicz.
Viola: Nancy Carroll.
Sebastian: Sam Alexander.
Antonio: Simeon Moore.
Sea Captain: Alan Francis.
Priest: Prasanna Puwanarajah.
Officer: Ian Abeysekera.
Director : Gregory Doran.
Designer : Robert Jones.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Martin Slavin.
Music: Paul Englishby.
Music Director: Julian Winn.
Company Text/Voice work: Lyn Darnley, Stephen Kemble.
Movement: Struan Leslie.
Fights: Terry King.
Assistant director: Justin Audibert.
*See Rod Dungate’s review in the RSC section.