Tuesday 8 August 2017

Theatre Review: Twelfth Night at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's Globe, London
Directed by: Emma Rice
Composer: Ian Ross
Run Time: 2 hrs 45 mins

Review: I was looking forward to this. This was a Shakespeare I hadn't seen, didn't really know much about, except that it was a comedy and that I was seeing the poster for it everywhere and wanted to see it. Plus it was at the Globe, a building I love, both visually and historically. I also knew it was an Emma Rice production, someone who has had a lot of contention about her time as Artistic Director. So I was all set for a spectacle and a spectacle I got.

I love going to the Globe, and their standing Yard tickets make it an accessible experience. Then i remember I then have to stand for three hours and I wish I'd bought a seated ticket. I brought this up on Twitter and someone mentioned that it won't matter as long as the show is good and this is very true. The time went by nicely, you get enveloped up in the story and taken into their world.  

Twelfth Night centres around identical twins Viola and Sebastian who get separated during a shipwreck.Viola disguised as a man ends up in the service of Duke Orsino, who is trying to win the love of the Countess Olivia. In Olivia's household the twelfth night celebrations are in full swing with Olivia's cousin Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Augecheek her helpless suitor, Feste her fool, and Maria her gentlewoman. They are being whipped into shape by the steward Malvolio. 

Where to begin with this. I loved the story, the fun and the dramatics in it, but also the heart and the hope in there. The play exists on so many levels, and with all the frivolity in there there is actually a lot of sadness that is mixed in. Yet it's played out with humour, allowed to develop whilst still keeping pace.

One of the strongest elements in the play was the fluidity of gender. Yes everything was amped up and they were all playing parts to an extent but it allowed you to explore the looseness of assigning gender and roles to life, putting the onus on the emotion and the connection,the feeling and the vibes rather than it being you're a man and I'm a woman. There was a sexual free-ness to the play which though was not a dominating trait, stood firmly at the forefront and waved its....freedom in front of us. 

I loved Anita-Joy Uwajeh's performance as Viola/Cesario, she stood out as the strongest for me. She was bold, but reactive, her comedy was accurate, not to forced or overplayed and the delivery was spot on. Likewise when Annette McLaughlin walked on stage, introducing us to Olivia, I had this feeling that I'm not going to like her, and then she started and magic happened. She reminded me of Hyacinth Bucket, and this is in no way a criticism. It was a fantastic characterisation. She played both side, the authoritarian and the comic is great measure, and like Anita it was just right without being too much. This was the problem I had however with Katy Owen's Malvolio. Let me first start by saying that Katy is a fantastic actress, and she played that part, getting everything out of it that she could. Malvolio is a brilliant character and there's so much in there be explored. It was just too much for me, and it was meant to be and I know that but it was so much that it was almost overbearing.At times it worked but at times, just take it back a notch. 

Maria, was this cocky gentlewoman, she has this hard edged grit and I loved Carly Bowden, you wanted to be on her team, even when it hit the fan for her. She was very much one of the 'lads' of the play. Likewise Tony Jayawardena was bold and verbose, large and in charge and he reveled in his celebrations with his comic partner Marc Antolin as Sir Andrew. They had a Laurel and Hardy pairing quality to them, bounced so well between each other and added that next level that the play needs. 

The thing I didn't get was Feste. Le Gateau Chocolat glides on to the stage in full drag, which visually is fun, but for me that's almost where it ends. I only realised the character and the role after the play and reading through the program. I was thinking about it all along as I went through and I was thinking is he a spirit...what...I didn't get fool, I also didn't get a lot of what was being conveyed through his songs. This was a jar for me that I couldn't get over. I'd heard about this point so much, I'd bigged it up mentally, so maybe the fault in this is mine?

This was a fun production, full of humour and I'm now on board and want to me more Twelfth night. 


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