Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Opened 10 May, 2001; reviewed September, 2001

*** Does the job efficiently but without much flair

Lindsay Posner's production has some success with both the comedy and the shadows in this play, but overall it's on the bland side.

This is the Royal Shakespeare Company playing it straight and safe for the tourist and student markets: not going overboard with novel interpretations of the play's sombre element, nor going to extremes to reinvent the comedy for a modern audience. It is efficient, but seldom exciting.

Zoë Waites as the disguised Viola is brashly androgynous, although her beloved Count Orsino is irksomely self-conscious in Jo Stone-Fewings' rendition. Barry Stanton and Alison Fiske portray a nicely low-key attachment between sir Toby and Maria, and Christopher Good is on the old side for an Andrew Aguecheek but still as gormless as is required. The two main strengths of the production are Mark Hadfield's stone-faced, Buster Keaton-like Feste the fool, discreetly mocking those around him for affecting to find him funny, and Guy Henry, an actor with a supreme talent for ridiculous dignity, as Malvolio the arrogant, deluded steward.

All the parts of Posner's production fit together neatly, but there is no spark to make them light up. This is known as one of Shakespeare's "festive comedies"; we can see the comedy, but are rather short-changed on the festivity.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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