Wednesday, November 19, 2014

English Touring Theatre's terrific "Twelfth Night"

I must have seen "Twelfth Night" a dozen times over the years - maybe more. Some productions have been good, some dire, some a bit "meh". English Touring Theatre's current presentation is one of the very best. "Twelfth Night" is an odd play in some ways. One could imagine a thirty-something playwright pitching it to a modern day Producer "It's lovely dear," he might say to Shakespeare, "but you really must cut it a bit. All those plots and sub-plots and more than 20 characters. The expense! Tighten it up a bit Billy, if you can".

I'm not sure that I've ever understood all the subtleties of plot but no matter - in good hands it's a wonderful romp with some of the best characters in the whole canon. In ETT's production, which I saw  at Richmond Theatre, the cast was truly outstanding and Jonathan Mumby's direction most assured. The play rattles along at a good pace and the quite young audience (present company excepted!) went along with it. In the trouser role Rose Reynolds was terrific. I suspect that Viola is not an easy part as it is almost entirely played as a young man in uniform. Ms Reynolds looked lovely with exactly the right amount of androgynous ambiguity! She also spoke her lines clearly and with poise (this may seem an obvious requirement but it's not unknown to mumble in the role!).

The set was sparse but clever - with plenty of space left for the action and the business, and with plenty of hiding spaces for the necessary subterfuge. Brian Protheroe as Feste held the action together and sang the great songs excellently. I enjoyed David Fielder's Toby Belch and Milo Twomey's almost sane Aguecheek. Rebecca Johnson's smouldering Olivia was wonderfully comic and sexually greedy! Indeed the cast as a whole were well chosen and they thoroughly entertained us. ETT doesn't really do star names and manages to thrive by taking its original and classy productions around the country. They are a "must see" for many of us - even if it's our twelfth "Twelfth Night" ! 


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