Shakespeare's Globe, London SE1
Opened 22 May, 2002

**** Proof that Shakespeare can be both authentic and hilarious

Tim Carroll's production gives us the comedy not just in its original theatre space, but with its original kind of cast - all male.

If the usual centres of both comedy and shadow in this play Sir Toby Belch and Feste the jester are here given merely efficient performances, the rest more than makes up for it. For once we get a Viola in disguise as a young man and actually played by a young man. Michael Brown, in his professional stage début, gives a beautifully nuanced performance, a world away from either drag-act grotesquerie or boys'-school awkwardness. Brown brings out the sexual ambiguity in the play without sacrificing any of Viola's own confused emotions. (From where I was sitting, there was for once also an uncanny resemblance between Viola and her brother Sebastian.)

The Globe's artistic director Mark Rylance takes on the role of Olivia, playing her with a strict formality which she tries in vain to hang on to when she finds herself falling in love with the disguised Viola. Paul Chahidi as Maria and Albie Woodington as Sir Andrew Aguecheek are the strongest of the out-and-out comic characters. Liam Brennan's Orsino is undistinguished until the final act, when he gets one of the biggest laughs. Overall, this is far more than a gimmick production: it simply works a treat.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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