Director Simon Godwin celebrates the topsy-turvy comedy of Twelfth Night with a light, lively production that flaunts the foolery without sidelining the disquieting irresolution within Shakespeare’s timeless problem play.
Against an elegant modern backdrop of angular marble and flowing hanging baskets, the royal courts are peopled by sharply dressed nobles and devious servants. With a saxophonist on stage, the fool’s mournful songs and even a cabaret number borrowed and bastardised from Hamlet, music is much more than just the food of love.
Songs are used inventively across the production to make the three hours of cross-dressing and clowning feel pacy and especially entertaining.
Despite its comedic multiple wedding ending, Twelfth Night is a play undercut with mourning; Shakespeare wrote it shortly after the death of one of his young twin children, Hamnet. But in this production it’s the foolery that’s foregrounded, to laugh-out-loud effect. And the implausibility of the neat, heteronormative romantic ending is wrung out and hung to dry with a riotous sequence of partner-swapping and gender-bending.
Daniel Rigby and Tim McMullan are a delight as drunken duo Sirs Andrew Aguecheek and Toby Belch, while Imogen Slaughter slips seamlessly between luminous mischief-making and mournful song.
But it’s Tamsin Greig as Malvolia who really captivates – in both comedy and tragedy. With just one word – a droll ‘yes’ – she has the whole audience laughing. Radiating all the pride of the ‘kind of puritan’ just in the way she walks across the stage, she brings out the comedy of Malvolia’s self-importance without reducing the character to parody.
When Malvolia is ‘notoriously abused’ the suffering is restrained – and all the more affecting to watch in the final vignette, where she stands in the spotlight broken, cross-gartered and stripped of puritanical armour.
|What||Twelfth Night, National Theatre review|
|Where||National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
15 Feb 17 – 13 May 17, 7:00 PM – 10:30 PM
|Price||£15 - £65|
|Website||Click here for more information|