Twelfth Night, Tricycle Theatre, London
Friday 14 May 2010
A third of the way through, the play stops, completely. Viola, disguised as the boy Cesario, has been virtually propositioned by the countess Olivia. "It is too hard a knot for me to untie," she says, and leaves the stage, confused, to sit in the audience.
Sir Toby Belch stirs himself slowly, drunkenly, towards revelry, sipping on his Special Brew in full Elizabethan fig while Aguecheek invites customers to the stage, and dashes out to bring in several boxes of pizza.
By now, it's party time, and Viola/Cesario is back in the thick of it, helping out on the keyboards. Malvolio's spoilsport ejaculation – "My masters, are you mad, or what are you?" – is directed at the whole theatre and anyone passing by on Kilburn High Street, too.
Viola's election-night query of "Who governs here?" on arrival in Illyria seemed doubly apt. This is a topsy-turvy madhouse where love is fragile, sexual gender unsure and authority paralysed in playtime.
In catching this anarchic spirit of Shakespeare's divine comedy, Sean Holmes's production for Filter and the RSC, first seen two years ago, cuts through the melancholic membrane to the quick of its bloodstream. It's a fantastic cut-up job that loses nothing of note.
And it's all over in 90 minutes. Ferdy Roberts repeats his marvellous Malvolio, strutting vaingloriously like Iggy Pop when baited by Maria's letter and stripping straight down to his yellow pants and stockings in an obscene fantasy of pulling power.
Jonathan Broadbent's self-obsessed Orsino is partner in delusion to his own Aguecheek and Poppy Miller repeats her lovely Viola, bright-eyed and resourceful in baggy trews and a borrowed jacket and hat. New to the cast is Victoria Moseley, a determined and haughty Olivia who catches the love bug with almost indecent haste.
In all, it's a production that should be compulsory viewing for anyone who thinks that Shakespeare's a) boring or b) best treated as a special heritage case.
To 29 May (020 7328 1000; Tricycle.co.uk)
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