Twelfth Night was the first Shakespeare our class had to read. Fourth form, I think. It culminated in a visit the Derngate Theatre – Jane Lapotaire as Viola and Frank Thornton as Malvolio. Judging by the frequency of productions of the play, schoolchildren have been studying it ever since.
I found this production at the Royal Excange a real curate’s egg. I thought the Viola/Olivia axis was well done and had an engaging mix of comedy and sadness; the scene where Viola and Sebastian are reunited did bring tears to my eyes. Having an Olivia who towered above everyone (including Orsino, as played by Thierry Henry with a Scouse accent) was visually funny but still left room for real pathos. On the other hand, the Sir Toby Belch/Malvolio scenes were tiresome. The staging – shopping trolleys, amps, boxing rounds – should have been funny but wasn’t and pushed aside speech. (I speak as someone who is right behind Sir Toby’s disdain for “no more cakes and ale”.) Malvolio’s humiliation was ultimately painful to watch. Feste was a trans-woman, which is an interesting take on the Viola/Cesario cross-dressing, but came across as distractingly drag-artisty.
However, I see from reviews that critics don’t agree with me.
I also realise that I am definitely moving towards the older generation: I was quite put out by the actors’ pronunciation of Viola (“Vyla”).
- Director: Jo Davies
- Viola: Faith Omole
- Olivia: Kate Kennedy
- Malvolio: Anthony Calf