Twelfth Night ****


Donmar West End at Wyndham’s Theatre, London
Friday 5th December 2008 – Saturday 7th March 2009

The Donmar Warehouse’s West End series at the Wyndham’s Theatre began, last September, with a commendable production of Chekhov’s Ivanov, staring Kenneth Branagh. The second in the Donmar’s series is a new production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, promoted to be staring Derek Jacobi. The Donmar Warehouse may be relying on its famous casting for its advertising campaign, (with Judi Dench and Jude Law to follow in later productions in the year) but the standard of production itself cannot be faulted. Michael Grandage directs a seamless performance of the much loved Shakespeare comedy, complete with outstanding performances from the majority of the cast.

Designer, Christopher Oram, creates a stunning cinematic vision of Illyria, through the richness of the costumes and simplistic set. Inhabiting Illyria is the Lady Olivia, played by the beautiful and graceful Indira Varma, and her, would be suitor, Duke Orsino, played by Mark Bonnar. Completing the ultimate love triangle is Victoria Hamilton as Viola, whose wide-eyed depiction is both endearing and intelligent. As in Shakespeare’s play and particularly in this production, a vast majority of the action is taken up with the comic subplot. A few extremely witty characters unite to convince Olivia’s manservant, Malvolio (Derek Jacobi), that Olivia is secretly in love with him. Their plan results in moments of comic genius from Jacobi, including a long sequence in which he painfully tries to smile and an entrance in ridiculous yellow stockings.

Grandage’s production certainly embraces all the elements now associated with the play, from the confusion of gender, humour from the mistaken identity and the suffering the characters experience because of their unrequited love. Although, inevitably, some of the depth of Shakespeare’s comedy is lost due to cuts to the script, yet, it could be argued, this is necessary to cater for modern audience and this production was, undoubtedly, very well received by its audience.



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