Friday 10 March 2017

Twelfth Night, The National Theatre, South Bank, Central London

Images from the Twelfth Night website

Seemingly set in the twentieth century, this extravagant production of Shakespeare's farce Twelfth Night employs a large and eclectic cast dressed in skinny jeans, outlandish suits, shades and brash swimsuits.  At times, the comic delivery is delicious, with Tamsin Greig (as the pompous and presumptuous Malvolia), Tim McMullan (as the mischievous Toby Belch), Daniel Rigby (an indignant and idiotic Aguecheek) and Phoebe Fox (a subtle and seductive Olivia), adding a great deal of humour to the script. But in this age of short attention spans, Twelfth Night can sometimes feel laborious and long-winded, as the cross-dressing and cases of mistaken identity gradually unwind. Moreover, some of the other performances, notably Oliver Chris (as a one-dimensional Orsino) and Tamara Lawrance (as a dutiful Viola) lack a spark, making the production feel flat at times.

Image from the Twelfth Night website

Still, there are some memorable and surprising scenes, such as the gloriously camp nightclub brawl, the half-hearted and hapless duel, and Greig's toe-cringing reading of the fanciful, yet fake, letter from Malvolia's mistress as Belch and Aguecheek attempt to conceal their glee and their presence. But the real star of the show is the awesome set. Employing an enormous rotating staircase, the transition from one scene to the next is both clever and captivating,  and is often accompanied by live music and singing, which gives the performance some needed momentum.  7/10