Friday 1 February 2013

Twelfth Night or What You Will @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama

“If music be the food of love, play on”.  So begins what for many is Shakespeare’s greatest comedy.  With so much music involved, it makes a suitable piece for the students at Guildhall, complete with piano and string accompaniment.

Mark Simmonds’ modern set evokes Grecian architecture with its geometric designs.  Most impressively, the curtains part to the side of the audience (sat in traverse) revealing an insinuated oceanic vista.  The storm scene, in particular, unveils spectacularly.  With such a sparse set, the costumes notably stand out – largely for their mix of minimalism and extravagance that lacks cohesion.

As expected under the eminent direction of Patsy Rodenburg, Shakespeare’s verse is spoken eloquently throughout, with some members of the cast revelling a little too much.  The result is a mostly solid ensemble, though some scenes do drag.

The pace picks up with the colourful members of Olivia’s household, setting up the comic subplot.  The cross-dressing comic device is furthered by having Feste played by a female: Eva Feiler’s fool sings beautifully self-accompanied on the accordion.  On the other hand, Tom Lincoln’s Orsino shows great presence and authority and Jessica Madsen’s Viola/Cesario is charming and articulate, with range of expression.  The casting of Madsen and Rob Callender as twin brother Sebastian is unusually realistic, lending believability to the dramatic climax.

Malvolio remains the most intriguing character and here, played by Stefan Adegbola, his depiction as a victim is highlighted.  Beginning as a statuesque butler, the infamous ‘yellow stocking’ scene is heightened with Adegbola emerging dressed in full yellow leotard and self-flagellating in a hilarious act of bondage.  Quickly he is reduced to a madman in a lunatic asylum, strapped to a wheelchair - a brave move that emphasizes the tragic elements of the comedy.  As the denouement unfolds, Adegbola delivers the lines with stoic poise for a suitably grave and poignant ending.


Watch: Twelfth Night runs from 31st January to 5th February at the Silk Street Theatre.