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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
The ambivalence of that age resonates with the ambivalence of the feelings Viola (Zoe Waites), disguised as the boy, Cesario, has for her friend and employer, Orsino (Joe Stone-Fewings) and for Olivia (Matilda Ziegler). Posner has chosen to explore the homo-erotic possibilities of this play, accentuating the relationships between the female Viola and Olivia and between Cesario, the male Viola and Orsino and between the sea captain Antonio (Joseph Mydell) and Sebastian (Ben Meyjes). The combinations are interesting. Olivia thinks Cesario is a boy but it may be Cesario's feminine qualities that attract her. Orsino thinks Viola is a male, Cesario, but finds an understanding companion in the pretty boy. Viola's role is pivotal.
I thought Joe Stone-Fewing's delivery of the opening speech, "If music be the food of love" was masterly as he totally indulged himself in this parody of the swooning lover. His switches of mood and volatility are a bench mark for how that speech should be delivered. Zoë Waites is enthusiastic in her Shakespearean roles. I have seen her as Juliet, as Ophelia, as Desdemona and now as Viola. She speaks with animation and intelligence but I did not feel involved in her predicament. Neither did I think she conveyed the love for Orsino well, but that may be the price paid for developing her relationship with Olivia. Posner makes Olivia and Viola exit together, hand in hand and Viola never changes out of her male uniform. I did like Matilda Ziegler's approachable Olivia.
The sub plot of Twelfth Night is a darker comedy. Toby Belch (Barry Stanton) is deliberately vulgar and unpleasant, vomiting onstage. Sir Andrew Aguecheek's (Christopher Good) comedy is played down to allow Malvolio to be funny. Alison Fiske is an excellent Maria setting up Malvolio (Guy Henry) the haughty steward for his come-uppance. Guy Henry's own brand of lanky, physical comedy gives us a Malvolio in tail coat, at least part based on John Cleese's Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. Henry's Malvolio has all the pretension, ambition and posturing but his downfall is very painful, not just for him but for the audience. In a piece of clever direction we do not see Malvolio imprisoned in the scene with Feste (Mark Hadfield) as the priest, just his hand through a paving grate, so that the first time the audience sees him reduced is in his parting scene. It is shocking to see the man we laughed at, bitter and hurt. Feste is slightly out of period, dressed as Buster Keaton with a pork pie hat and cuffs with no sleeves, always carrying his suitcase as if passing through, with a Yiddish delivery to his humour and songs which are both baleful and insightful.
There were points when the production seemed to slow, but never when Guy Henry was onstage. Twelfth Night is a wonderful play for spotting lines taken to be titles of other people's novels or plays in the slow moments. Velvet smoking jackets, long dressing gowns, braided military uniforms, dark green louvred doors, sofas and plush carpets complete the Edwardian design.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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