Director Cecelia Dorland has set the play in world 'mid-way between Elizabethan pageant and haute-couture catwalk’. It’s a nice idea that isn’t done justice by the stretch of PVC on the floor.
Fortunately, this production by Scena Mundi theatre company, staged in Soho’s French Protestant church, is buoyed by engaging performances. Pip Brignall’s Orsino is a camp, posturing, affected trust-fund brat. He is entirely unlikeable but entirely watchable.
His simpering character is certainly no match for the play’s Olivia. Emma Hall is a languid, predatory presence – she watches sprightly Viola with a hunger that isn’t exactly lusty. Harriett Hare plays Viola with all the requisite gameness and suppressed exasperation.
The comic performances are even better. Clare Brice is perfect as a twitchy, pop-eyed Maria, and Thomas Winsor is impressive as a twitchy, pop-eyed Sir Andrew. Jack Christie cuts a Jack Black-like figure as Sir Toby Belch, and Martin Prest’s Malvolio is convincingly part sad-sack, part manic loon.
Edward Fisher plays David Bowie… Sorry, Feste the fool. But with his drollness, his arch approval of the gender confusions going on, and his silver trousers ballooning from a wasp-waist, it’s hard not to see his performance as an homage to the late singer. Although his own singing isn’t quite up to the Starman’s standards, Fisher is the best thing on stage.
As a whole, the cast never rises above entertaining, but it also never drops below competent. The problem is the setting. The church is a romantic venue, but it’s no fun sitting in pews for two and a half hours. Director Dorland must be aware of this, because scenes follow each other so quickly that they sometimes overlap.
They also take place in the aisle between the pews, so the audience often has to twist around to see one or more of the actors. And whereas the acoustics up front are excellent, they’re muffled and echo-y further back.
The result is never as lavish as the pageant/catwalk mash-up promises – especially in the austerity of the surroundings. It needed to be as ‘Bowie’ as the performances, which are reason enough to see this play.
|What||Twelfth Night, Soho Square Review|
|Where||French Protestant Church, 8-9 Soho Square, London, W1V 3QD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Tottenham Court Road (underground)|
24 Mar 16 – 09 Apr 16, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£12.50 - £20|
|Website||Click here to book tickets via Scena Mundi|