I’m a little worried that I am about to be nasty for the sake of being contrary.
This production was a good, efficient and easy version of the play. All the jokes were in the right place (and pretty much worked) and time passed without any drags – in fact some scenes seemed to go by rather quickly with just enough opportunity to be savoured.. It was definitely the sum of its parts and considering half a dozen of the actors on were worth the price of admission on their own, it’s a pretty huge sum. However I didn’t feel it was greater than the sum of its parts and that was a pity. The production was clean and it worked but perhaps I wanted something more flawed and adventurous. I have seen this play more than half a dozen times so I could well be jaded and my standards absurdly high.
It had all the bits that could have made it fantastic and yet for me it didn’t catch fire. It might be that this was only the fourth or fifth performance and by the twentieth, when everybody has got used to each other, there will be a scintillating ensemble. I couldn’t claim that they lacked communication but I think I didn’t feel a sense of community. It’s a small thing that I’m blowing out of all proportion.
Possibly my biggest problem was Derek Jacobi and it was only slightly to do with his strange spiky-topped crew-cut. At first his Malvolio was merely stern and correct and I didn’t feel that he was pompous or self-serving. This changed rapidly after his first two scenes and he developed into the Malvolio that I had expected him to be. But by that time I had been reminded how old Jacobi is and how unsuitable (possibly unbelievable) he is as a suitor to Olivia. I didn’t believe that he would believe himself to be favoured by her.
There was also something slightly odd about the costumes, while all the Illyrians were dressed in vaguely 1930s style, Viola and Sebastian seemed to be wearing something from about a half or even a whole century before – I thought I saw echoes of the Corsican Brothers in their colourful jackets and their sash belts.
I liked Zubin Varla’s Feste and the triumvirate of Samantha Spiro, Ron Cook and Guy Henry as Maria, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew.