The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Propeller in association with The Belgrade Theatre and The Touring Partnership present
‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare
Belgrade Theatre: Tkts 024 7655 3055
Runs: 3h: one interval:till 10th November and touring
Review: Jan Pick
Play on, Propeller!
Propeller’s ‘Twelfth Night’ opens on a set resembling an abandoned state room, furniture shrouded in cloths, a fallen chandelier, empty bottles rolling around, abandoned and neglected, a lonely cello leaning in a corner. In this imaginative all-purpose staging, the play leaps to life in a well-paced, well-acted production that allows Shakespeare’s words to breathe, unencumbered by an excess of directorially imposed concepts. There are ideas a-plenty, intriguing suggestions of menace in the stealthy half-masked figures that watch the action from various points as the story unfolds, the design of shrouds, mirrors and veils, that emphasise the elements of disguise and deception – both of others and of self. This is one of the best ‘Twelfth Night’s that I have seen in recent years. The acting is excellent, with finely judged performances, particularly from Joseph Chance as Viola/Cesario and Gary Shelford as Maria. Christopher Heyward makes a sexy and virile Orsino, and Liam O’Brien an excellent and melancholic Feste.
The comedy is given its full weight, without unbalancing the central love story, The riotous carouse to disturb Olivia’s household – excellent performances from Vince Leigh as Sir Toby, and John Dougall as the poor, gulled Sir Andrew – for once living up to its full potential, giving weight to Malvolio’s anger and vicious attack on the revellers. Chris Myles made the pompous, strutting little Malvolio a star turn and Ben Allen drifted around alluringly as Olivia.
Two quibbles in this generally admirable production. Ben Allen’s tendency to flounce occasionally detracts from an otherwise good performance, and the gulling of Malvolio in the letter scene is rather overplayed, smothering the comedy under excessive clowning – but that is a small price to pay for the many joys of this ‘Twelfth Night’.
Feste: Liam O’Brien
Orsino, Duke of Illyria: Christopher Heyward
Curio, his servant: Arthur Wilson
Viola, later Cesario: Joseph Chance
Sebastian, her twin brother: Dan Wheeler
Sea Captain: Benjamin O’Mahoney
Olivia: Ben Allen
Malvolio, her steward: Chris Myles
Sir Toby Belch, her uncle: Vince Leigh
Maria, her gentlewoman: Gary Shelford
Sir Andrew Aguecheek, suitor to Olivia: John Dougall
Antonio, a sea captain: Finn Hanlon
First Officer: Lewis Hart
Second Officer: Darrell Brockis
Priest: Arthur Wilson
Other parts played by members of the Company
Director: Edward Hall
Designer: Michael Pavelka
Lighting: Ben Ormerod
Sound: David Gregory
Text adaptation: Edward Hall and Roger Warren
Associate Director: Dugald Bruce-Lockhart