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Theatre review: Twelfth Night 
12th-Jan-2010 11:34 pm
It's January, so there must be a production of Twelfth Night somewhere. Some day I must go and see Twelfth Night actually on Twelfth Night, but this year I'd already booked for Sweet Charity so it wasn't to be. Almost a year ago I was watching a production with an unusually light touch that perhaps failed to acknowledge the play's melancholy element. Now Gregory Doran's production goes to pretty much the opposite extreme. Not that there aren't plenty of funny moments, but on the whole this leaves a much more bitter taste than usual. Of the two extremes I'd rather have the former any day.

Still, there's a lot of good performances. The show is of course being sold on the strength of Richard Wilson as Malvolio, but funnily enough this is his first time performing Shakespeare. It's a perfectly good Malvolio if not a showstopper, and at least with his hangdog face Wilson seems to have been born to play the part. I was of course hoping they might have unearthed a previously unknown version of the play where Malvolio says "Sossery!" a lot but you can't have everything. I didn't think I was going to like Alexandra Gilbreath but I quickly warmed to her Olivia who is rather broad but funny, and Pamela Nomvette is a particularly good Maria - she and Richard McCabe make Maria and Sir Toby's eventual marriage seem plausible from the start, which isn't often the case. Nancy Carroll is a strong Viola, Jo Stone-Fewings a fairly blokey Orsino who gets more Welsh by the line, and James Fleet as good a Sir Andrew as you'd hope, with a nice little moment where Sir Andrew is surpised by a set change.

But while it's hard to fault the performances, and the comic setpieces (especially the scene of Malvolio discovering the letter) are very well handled, the rest didn't really gel for me, and the overall tone is rather dark throughout - never more so than when Doran punctuates Feste's final song by showing all the characters hard done by the action. It's an interesting production and one with the odd spark of genius, but overall not one that sucked me in.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is booking until the 27th of February at the Duke of York's Theatre.
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