I’ve been looking forward to seeing this for ages – I bought the tickets in the summer – and I really liked the idea of seeing Twelfth Night on twelfth night. I enjoy the play, or most of it and I was intrigued at the idea of Vyvyan Basterd playing Malvolio, having not, at that stage, seen Ade Edmondson playing it straight in Bancroft.
The set and setting was what I’ve come to expect from a Christopher Luscombe directed play at RSC; lush Victorian/Edwardian country house. It looked lovely but was a bit faffy when scenery needed changing and there was a pause every time Orsino’s decadent Turkish setting needed to slide backwards to make room for Olivia’s conservatory or drawing-room to swing forwards. Good idea but didn’t quite work.
The cast were good, if not outstanding. I never quite believed Kara Tointon’s Olivia was smitten by Cesario/Viola but it didn’t distract from the story. Antonio’s love for Sebastian was more believable. Dinita Gohil and Esh Alladi were good as Viola and Sebastian.
I liked the fact that Sir Toby was portrayed with an edge of malice to both his duping of Sir Andrew and the revenge he exacts on Malvolio for trying to curb his excesses. It made more sense of his and Maria’s treatment of Malvolio and the way they run off together.
I was disappointed by Vivien Parry as Maria. I found her difficult to hear even when she was towards the front of the stage. She was much better in A Christmas Carol.
Michael Cochrane acted Sir Andrew Aguecheek well but, without being too rude, he looked too old for the part. A Sir Andrew of that age would have been duped out of his fortune well before Sir Toby got his hands on him.
So, I guess the question raised by my comment at the beginning of this article is how well did Adrian Edmondson do? My answer would have to be pretty well! He was stately and on his dignity at the beginning, believable when he is reading the letter purporting to come from Olivia and revengeful when he finds out about the trick that has been played on him. He didn’t light up the stage in the same way John Lithgow did when he played the role (my favourite Malvolio to date); I think this was mainly down to the scene where he approaches Olivia cross-gartered and smiling, which wasn’t quite grotesque enough. I would be interested to see him in other roles.
Who’d have thought in the early 1980s that Vyvyan and Theophilus P Wildebeeste would turn into serious actors!
Overall this was a fun, enjoyable evening at the theatre and I’d recommend you see it if you get the chance – there’s a live screening on 14/02, which broadens your choices.