Twelfth Night

Posted on: 07 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green reviews Twelfth Night at the Wyndham Theatre.

A romantic comedy of mistaken identity, infatuation and broken hearts, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has been revived in an impressive new production directed by Michael Grandage at the Wyndhams Theatre.

Shipwrecked and fearing her twin brother dead, Viola is swept onto the shores of Illyria. Disguising herself as a boy, she takes a post in the Duke of Orsino’s court and, on his behalf, attempts to woo his loved one, the Lady Olivia.

Meanwhile, her bewildered brother Sebastian tries to make sense of a foreign country where reality has been radically redefined. He, too, has been cast ashore in Illyria, where misunderstandings multiply and passionate declarations from a complete stranger come out of the blue and the one friend who could advise him is nowhere to be found.

In a subplot, Maria, Olivia’s lady-in-waiting and the disreputable Sir Toby Belch hatch a plot to shame Malvolio, Olivia’s steward, who has amorous designs on his mistress, by faking a letter from her stating that if he wants to woo her he should wear bright yellow stocking and adopt a permanent smile, both of which she abhors. Malvolio falls for this ruse and loses his dignity in the process. All comes right in the end.

In his marvellously evocative and clearly enunciated production, bathed in an orange and yellow light, Grandage brings out Shakespeare’s exploration and joy in a comedy of many dimensions. While the period in which the play is set is not actually specified, the clothes worn are a mixture of the past and the present.

Though I was slightly disconcerted to see the Duke of Orsino make his entrance in what looked like a long white night robe, after a while one gets accustomed to the dress code and it certainly does not undermine the sense of conviction conveyed by the production.

Grandage has here mustered a splendid cast led by Derek Jacobi who commands attention in his first role as Malvolio, supported by excellent performances from Victoria Hamilton and Alex Waldman as Viola and Sebastian, Mark Bonnar as Duke Orsino, Indira Varma as Olivia, Ron Cook as Sir Toby Belch, Samantha Spiro as Maria and Guy Henry as the tall, lanky Sir Andrew Agurcheek, another of Olivia’s hapless suitors.

Truly this is a production with an appeal far beyond the holiday season!

By Laurence Green

Show Details

Plays Until: the 7th March.

Where: Wyndhams Theatre

Box Office: 0844 482 5120

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