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Twelfth Night - Chichester Festival 2007 (Review)

Patrick Stewart in Twelfth Night, Chichester 2007

Review by David Munro

THE only justification for this production of Twelfth Night is Patrick Stewart’s Malvolio which is a gem of a performance.

He plays him a dour Scot, and even in the opening scenes, in many of which he is merely an onlooker, he manages – by his facial expressions and body language – to dominate the scenes.

When he gets the false letter and fantasises his mistress is in love with him, his reserve cracks and his verbal ecstasies are beautifully delivered and very funny.

He accompanies his speech with funny little bodily movements and mannerisms which contrast from his heretofore formal manner and illustrate beautifully his breakdown and self deception.

In the second act, after he is incarcerated and tormented, he expresses his pain and distress as though he were a tethered animal emphasising his anguish and the complete destruction of his pride and self esteem.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast fall far below his standards; Kate Fletwood’s Olivia, although authoritative in the first act, seemed to lose the plot and her character in the second – where her attempts to show her descent into a lovestruck woman – were unconvincing and for most of the time embarrassing.

Laura Rees’ Viola looked nice en travesti but delivered her lines as though she were in an elocution class; well rounded phrases uttered with neither real feeling nor meaning.

I will spare the blushes of the actors playing Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheeck, Feste and Maria by trying to forget the actor’s names and the awfulness of their performances.

Tim Treloar, as Antonio, was extremely effective in his dignified distress at Sebastian’s seeming betrayal of him, a performance which stood out in the mediocrity of the rest of the supporting cast.

How much of this was the fault of Philip Franks, the director, or whether he was defeated by the abilities (or lack of them) of his cast who can say?

Certainly, I never remember having seen a Twelfth Night where the second act seemed so unpleasant, boring and over-bearably long.

The final confrontation scene seemed to go on forever and made little sense with the posturing and at times inaudibility of the cast.

However, all this can be forgiven by the pleasure engendered by Patrick Stewart’s performance. He made the production memorable in a good sense which outweighed the horrors of the rest.

I unfortunately missed his much praised Macbeth earlier in the season (which is now coming to the West End) but I understand the same cast supported him in that – well!

In the words of the immortal (in this production somewhat battered) Bard: “the rest is silence.”

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.
Music by – Mathew Scott.
Directed by Philip Franks.
Designer – Leslie Travers.
Lighting – Howard Harrison.
Sound – Jonathan Suffolk.
Fight Director – Malcolm Ranson.
CAST: Patrick Stewart; Martin Turner; Oliver Birch; Hywel John; Mark Rawlings; Kate Flkeetwood; Suzanne Burden; Paul Shelley; Scott Handy; Christopher Patrick Nolan; Polly Frame; Niamh McGrady; Laura Rees; Christopher Nott; Ben Carpenter; Tim Treloar; Michael Feast; Bill Nash.

Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP.
In repertory until August 31, 2007.
Evenings: 7.30pm/Mat: Weds or Thurs & Sat: 2pm
Box Office: – 01234 781312.