Review by Marion Jenkins
“Rylance’s Olivia glides around the stage like a ‘medieval dalek’”
A ‘star-crossed’ cast and lavish set brings Shakespeare’s complicated comedy to life at the suitably embellished Apollo theatre…and, like the slippery plot, all is not what it seems in this all male production which first saw light in 2002. Mark Rylance, global giant of the stage, is topped off with a sparkly tiara as Olivia and Stephen Fry sports yellow stockings and a huge smile as Malvolio.
Jenny Tiramani’s stage design is dominated by six giant chandeliers atop lashings of carved wood and two doors. Characters pop in and out like crazy cuckoos in a giant clock as the tale evolves over three hours. Keep your wits about you as Viola turns into Cesario, Malvolio is duped by a love letter from Olivia which isn’t from her at all, Viola’s ‘dead’ twin Sebastian rocks up after all and that’s just a taste of this jigsaw of confusion at the heart of Twelfth Night. Those chandeliers don’t cast a lot of light on the plot so remember to pay attention.
The all male set up in ‘original practice’ brings extra comic farce to the table as chaps are decked out in brocade and lace gowns. Olivia’s big black dress could hide wheels as Rylance glides around the stage like a medieval dalek. Rely on Rylance to bring something unique to the table. He was nominated for an Olivier Award back in 2002 for making Olivia his own and this performance should put him on the list again.
The audience warmed to Fry’s Malvolio from his first word and this national treasure milked Shakespeare’s every syllable. The letter purporting to be from his mistress Olivia which declares her love for him is really from a crew of fellow servants fed up with him. It advises him to wear yellow stockings (Olivia hates the colour) and smile all the time (She is in mourning for her dead brother). He is fetching in yellow and grins admirably.
Globe regular Colin Hurley bumbles around red-faced and raucous as Sir Toby Belch and Johnny Flynn, who appeared with Rylance in Jerusalem, tackles Viola. Plenty of music stitches the tale together thanks to a troup of musicians set high on set in a galliered landing. Peter Hamilton Dyer’s sweet voiced fool sprinkles wisdom throughout. It would be a wise decision to track down a ticket but that will be difficult in this strictly limited season.
Twelfth Night runs in repertory with Richard III from November 2 until February 9 2013.
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1. 0844 412 4658. Online bookings www.nimaxtheatres.com