Review by David Munro
I DON'T care whether Twelfth Night was written
by Sir John Phillips, Francis Bacon, Lord Oxford or whomsoever,
it is a very amusing and entertaining play and with the right
cast proves itself to be a sparkling comedy.
I am sure most people know the plot but for those who don’t,
it concerns a Duke, Orsino, in love with a neighbouring rich lady,
Olivia, and twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are shipwrecked and
Viola cross-dresses as a boy, Cesario, and falls in love with
Orsino; Olivia falls in love with Viola /Cesario and everyone
gets very confused until the sexes are finally sorted out and
Whilst all this is going on, Olivia’s uncle, Toby, his
friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and a maid, Maria, deceive her steward,
Malvolio, into believing that his mistress is in love with him,
which creates more confusion. It is all very light-hearted and
apart from Malvolio no one is really hurt.
Although the play is ostensibly about the Orsino, Olivia, Viola,
Sebastian and their romantic entanglements, the Malvolio subplot
is what most people remember about the play and Malvolio is usually
treated as the star part.
In this production, he is played by Mathew Kelly whom I last
remember as the shambling, pathetic Lenny in Of
Mice And Men; a brilliant performance I shall never forget.
Although Malvolio does not give him the same dramatic opportunities,
those that it does give him he seizes and makes it again a memorable
His Malvolio is a self-deluding, self-righteous pedant sitting
on the pinnacle of his self-esteem from which he falls with a
Nonetheless, even in his most ludicrous moments Mr Kelly still
manages to display some dignity and makes Malvolio although unlikeable,
still a believable character. He also extracts the humour from
the part albeit that it is against rather than with him.
The rest of the cast, although good, are not really in the same
class. That is not to say that there are not some very good performances.
Hilton McRae’s clown, Feste, is one outstanding example
but when he is on stage Mr Kelly dominates it and when he is off
you wait for his return.
As I have indicated, Hilton McRae
is a superb Feste; he has the right wry humour for the part and
he throws away his lines when required with the maximum effect.
It is a very 'modern' performance which is in keeping with the
style of the production which was fashionably modern; Sir Toby
Belch wears a clubman’s suit and, in the finale, the cast
were dressed as though for an Edwardian Drawing Room.
Whether or not this helps Shakespeare I am not sure. In this
production, it was helped by Mike Britton’s set which was
a series of shutters round the edge of the stage leaving the stage
itself bare other than for a few transparent plastic chairs which
gave an air of timelessness to the proceedings.
Patrick Mason directed the piece as though it was a Twenties
Coward comedy. The cast rushed in and out, spoke very fast (and
it was a credit to them that they were audible) and were generally
Honeysuckle Weeks’ Viola/Cesario was a very bright young
thing and lost a lot of the poetry of the part in the process,
as did Rebecca Egan’s Olivia’s neurotic society hostess.
The style of production worked better for the comedians and Christopher
Benjamin’s bluff Sir Toby and Roger Barclay’s effete
Andrew Aguecheek were effective in playing their parts as though
they had strayed in from some lesser Wodehouse novel.
They were at least amusing which was a relief, as in lesser actors
hands these parts can be very forced and unfunny.
All in all, it was an interesting production made worthwhile
by Mathew Kelly. If you like your Shakespeare all ruffs and farthingales
then this is not for you.
If you want to find out whether Shakespeare is more than a set
subject for an exam, then this is the production you will enjoy
and remember. At least it is something different and I leave it
to you to decide whether Shakespeare (or Phillips) is the better
for it or not.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.
Director – Patrick Mason.
Designer – Mike Britton.
Lighting – Howard Harrison.
Sound – Richard Price.
Music - Conor Linehan.
CAST: Mathew Kelly; Hilton McRae; Honeysuckle Weeks; Rebecca Egan;
Christopher Benjamin; Anita Booth; Paul Benzing; Suzanne Marston;
Rebecca Pownall; Bob Cryer; Ben Crysal; Christopher Logan; Neil
Jones; Roger Barclay; Paul Stewart; Christopher Harper.
Presented by Theatre Royal Plymouth and Thelma Holt.
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Tues, Oct 11 – Sat, Oct 15, 2005
Evenings – 7.30 pm
Matinees – Thurs & Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office: 0870 060 6646.