Last weekend I saw my third (or possibly fourth) production of Twelfth Night and it was the bee’s knees. I first saw this play in tent on Blackheath (as part of the touring London Bubble theatre touring rep) fifteen or so years ago, then a very dry outdoor production in Oxford with my grandparents in 1993, possibly again in Hyde Park in 1996 (but I slept thru it so it could have been any of the comedies done badly), and finally off-Broadway 2005.
It was a NYLON production from the Aquila theatre company. The Yanks were the hunks and beauties (Orsino, Viola, Maria, Antonio), and the Brits were the uptight and the comic (Sir Toby Belch, Malvolio, Andrew Aguecheek). But, these stereotypes worked beautifully. A lean production. Superfluous characters chopped, a simple set and few props. The fool, Feste (played by Louis Butelli), is the pivotal character. He infused the role with a careful balance of pathos and humour (with a slight homage to Groucho Marx’s). Drum and base techno music broke up the scenes, you’d think this wouldn’t work but it does perfectly! This is one of the best Shakespearian productions I have scene, the only thing that niggled me was the Sebastian/Antonio thread. As they truncated their scenes, you didn’t get a chance to explore their dynamic.