Twelfth Night, Loft Theatre, Leamington, until December 15
The clue is in the sub-title What You Will.
Even the least of Shakespeare enthusiasts will have heard of Twelfth Night and will probably associate it with post-Christmas frolics. Certainly the name of the game is revelry and you’re invited to enjoy it on several different platforms.
What makes the play so good is a tightness of construction that is never deliberately up front. Story line and characters are drawn with a subtlety which enables them to function on separate levels of individual choice.
William Wilkinson’s production is fast, bright and lively. It opts for plenty of movement and cheekily stampedes a few sacred cows. Why, for example, does Sir Andrew Aguecheek wear a kilt? Why does the recently widowed Lady Olivia keep careering happily around the stage looking like a cross between Dorothy from Oz and Sandy from Grease? Why do characters wear trilby hats or totter on high heels and sport other types of anachronistic clothing?
The simple answer to all these is: why not? Who says we need a formal costume pattern? Where on earth is Illyria anyway?
So it’s down to what makes this an enjoyable evening. Clever direction, spirited performances and a dazzling set design by Kimberlee Green.
It opens with a tremendous sea storm sequence for the first entrance of lovelorn Viola, hinting at some of the play’s darker qualities. These don’t really recur because the antics that follow cast them aside in favour of lightness and cheer.
Beatrice Cranke’s Viola is finely drawn without recourse to too much boyish posturing when she adopts her disguise. Jeremy Heynes, kilt or not, is a delightfully comic if never very foppish Aguecheek. Craig Shelton’s Malvolio has strength and substance but does not convey the patronising pomposity that so sets the character aside from the rest.
Indeed, Malvolio should be the key to the play’s element of tragic undertone, a pointer to the more cruel aspects of human nature culminating in his final aggrieved line.
Here the choice is clearly fun. An opportunity to savour colour, spectacle and all-round entertainment.
Definitely a case of what you will.
Picture by Richard Smith Photography, (left to right) - Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jeremy Heynes), Maria (Lorna Middleton), Sir Toby Belch (Peter Daly-Dickson)