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In need of the Twelfth Night

Screen-shot-2010-09-29-at-10.29.01 The Cottesloe to me is the National's quirky space, somewhere for more experimental work, where the performance space, production and theatrical devices push the boundaries.  So Twelfth Night seemed to me to be a slightly odd choice for the space and in particular a Twelfth Night directed by Sir Peter Hall or was he about to turn it all on it's head?

Sadly the answer quickly appeared to be 'no' with a conventional audience/stage set up and nothing more racy than a huge, looped canvas with a pleasant Habitat-esque tree design on it being raised and lowered over the stage. But with a promising cast including Sir Peter's daughter Rebecca and well-seasoned thesp Simon Callow at the least there was the promise of a good, solid show.

Now this was the second performance in preview and I know some theatres get upset when people write less than glowing reports about their plays before they've had chance to refine them for the esteemed press, so I'm viewing this as a work in progress.

The pace definitely needs some work. In the first half, scenes that set out the story of the misplaced wooing and concealed love felt frustratingly languid. Orsino (Marton Csokas) is so vapid in his unrequited love you can quite understand why Olivia (Amanda Drew) would rather mope around in mourning for her brother than receive his overtures of love. And Ms Hall's Viola lacked a certain passion and earnestness as the disguised-as-a-boy 'Cesario' sent as the go-between and the third point in the rapidly forming love triangle.

It was in stark contrast to the comic thread of the story in which Sir Toby Welch (Simon Callow on fine form) and maid Maria (Finty Williams providing a breath of fresh air) plot their revenge on the pompous and arrogant servant Malvolio (Simon Paisley Day) while ridiculing Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a marvellous Charles Edwards) as much as possible.

When these characters were on stage it was like a different play to the point that I didn't want them to leave the stage. I've seen production of Twelfth Night where every ounce of humour has been wrung from Shakespeare's words and the actors comic ability and I think with more bedding in this cast could get close but it isn't quite there yet.

Aside from the comedy it was a joy to see Jacobean costumes and costumes that were so beautifully made. Each of the principal characters outfits were examples of exemplary craftsmanship so much so that they in themselves were a pleasure to watch.

Sir Peter Hall's Twelfth Night has left me with mixed feelings. I almost want to go back and see it again in a couple of weeks to see how it's come together but then there are so many other plays I'd rather spend my money on seeing for the first time.

No reviews have been submitted to yet, but I will add in the score when they do appear. But for the time being I'm giving it 3/5.


This too is at preview stage ie a work in progress. There is one just not a direct one so I'm, er, working on it.