Twelfth Night, theatre review: Matthew Kelly pleasingly rumbustious as sozzled uncle


Liverpool Everyman

When the people of Liverpool were asked what they would like to remain in their newly rebuilt Everyman Theatre they wanted three things.

There was the famous Bistro, where vegetarians, radicals and artists have been arguing over the risotto since back in the 1970s.

They voted to keep the thrust stage previously trod by the likes of Julie Walters, the late Pete Postlethwaite, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Bernard Hill and Trevor Eve among a glittering cast of alumni whose names will forever be associated with the place.

And finally there was the trademark neon sign whose dodgy electrics in recent years had often led to the theatre being mistaken for a branch of the stationery chain Ryman.

They all remain in the wake of the £28m rebuild – only all are bigger and considerably posher.

What cannot be designed into a building – no matter how much consultation or Arts Council millions are pumped in – is the extraordinary maverick spirit of this great romantic city which brought the touch of bohemian greatness to the leaky and cramped former chapel.

The building, with its panoramic balconies gazing down Hope Street affording fine views of the two extraordinary cathedrals, is an undoubted smash. Five thousand Scousers turned up on the open weekend to give it the once over.

Yet artistic director Gemma Bodinetz is under little illusion that it must succeed artistically if it is to justify the money spent and the optimism surrounding the completion of the work.

Paul Duckworth as Feste & Natalie Dew as Olivia in Twelfth Night Paul Duckworth as Feste & Natalie Dew as Olivia in Twelfth Night

So what of the opening play? Twelfth Night was chosen because it was felt to reflect the ethos of the Liverpool, its rich array of characters as well as the new mission statement of the theatre itself encapsulated in Feste’s final lines: ‘And we’ll strive to please you every day’.

Judging by the audience reaction they certainly succeeded in doing so with this colourful, brash production which squeezed every ounce of bawdy humour out of Shakespeare’s source material.

In the casting there is a nod back to that celebrated class of 74 with Matthew Kelly as Sir Toby Belch. But the prevailing mood was looking forward rather than one of nostalgia. 

There were some really strong performances alongside Kelly, who was pleasingly rumbustious in the role of the sozzled uncle. Nicholas Woodeson was outstanding as Malvolio switching seamlessly from brilliant comic villain to victim whilst Paul Duckworth was a superb Feste.

These are clearly the beginnings of exciting times for the theatre – one which aims to remain indivisible for the people of the city it serves. The everyman ambition– reflected not just in the giant red neon letters over the entrance but in the portraits of more than 100 local people build into the fabric of the fascia - is a noble one.

But Liverpool is a place transformed over the past decade. No longer in decline, it is growing economically, smartened up and bristling with museums, galleries, restaurants and designer shops luring Scandinavian tourists and well-heeled city breakers by the plane load.

It is an entirely different place from the crumbling politically-charged dock city of the 1970s and 80s. It will be fascinating to see what happens.

To 5 April

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk