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Theatre Review: Twelfth Night ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that overindulges but is still filled with delights.

Let’s be brutally honest: Shakespeare’s script for Twelfth Night is utterly ridiculous. It has plot holes a lorry could drive through and narrative threads that never successfully tie together. Events that are alluded at fail to materialise, and characters make choices that seem to contradict what they said or wanted in a previous scene.

But what brilliant characters they are. This might contain some lovely moments of language, but this is a play that’s all about the characters, and any successful production of Twelfth Night needs to commit to allowing the cast to creatively breathe.

This is perhaps the strongest point of Wils Wilson’s production: it is a very playful production. The concept of having the play performed by a group of hippies in a commune works more often than it doesn’t, even if it gets discarded halfway through. There are also some fun visual flares with design concepts, particularly the costumes. The music, however, is a bit of a double-edged sword: individually the songs are a lot of fun but they are slotted into the script rather than replacing moments, meaning that this is an overlong production, needlessly clocking in at over three hours.

However, there are so many great character moments and terrific performances that any form of indulgence is forgiven. Jade Ogugua and Joanne Thomson look nothing alike yet play twins Viola and Sebastian well, and Christopher Green’s Malvolio is sterner than usual but still afforded brilliant moments, particularly in his character’s second half downfall. However, the real standouts in this production are Dawn Sievewright’s crass Tobi Belch and Guy Hughes foppish Andrew Aguecheek—individually they are hilarious but together (with Joanna Holden’s funny partner in crime Maria) they are an absolute scream.

All of which makes this a Twelfth Night worth seeing. It might be a bit indulgent and takes a while to shift gears into the dramatic action, but when it works it is a delight.

Twelfth Night is at the Royal Lyceum until October 6.

Tags: theatre

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