You are here: Southwark \ Arts & Listings \ TWELFTH NIGHT AT OLD VIC
2 February 2007
Old Vic, Waterloo Road, SE1
Until February 17
Box Office 0870 060 6628
By Elizabeth Paul
I think I'm with Samuel Pepys when it comes to Twelfth Night.
He called it 'a silly play, not related at all to the name or day'. Quite. This production had Edward Hall (son of Sir Peter, who was in the audience) as its director and featured an all male cast, which got up my nose from the start. Why all men?
I am well aware that back in Will's day all female parts were played by boys but I'd like to think that, in the twenty-first century, we have moved on. If an actor really must play a woman then he should study the part - few women spend their time pouting, tossing their heads and swishing their skirts like little girls do. Although Dugald Bruce-Lockhart playing Olivia seems to think this is so. What an insult. And so unconvincing. I really do not think that this version is aimed at a female audience.
I failed to see the point of such a cast - those that were doing bad impersonations of 'ladies' were neither one nor the other. Maria (Chris Myles) was half panto dame, half Jack Regan, wearing a dress and gaudy make-up with a slicked-back thirties gangster hairstyle. Perhaps this was all supposed to be taken tongue-in-cheek but if so it failed in its delivery and distracted from the story.
The stage set was a very unnerving piece of construction. All monochrome, mirrored wardrobes and dust-sheeted furniture. Before the performance began I sat studying it and slightly freaked when I realised that there was somebody sitting very still under one of the sheets, with just a whisper of breath moving the material. The more I watched the more I thought of the Halloween film. Ditto the mirrored wardrobes that were slightly transparent. Instead of exiting 'stage left' the actors entered and exited via a wardrobe door and could just be seen within the cupboard, standing very still. I was waiting for Mr Tumnus to appear. The glass coffins used throughout to transport people on stage also added to the weird, disturbing feeling.
Even when the play was up and running, for me that nightmare sensation didn't abate. Perhaps the masked, muted men writhing around the set humming to themselves was the reason. Or maybe it was the strange sounds that were used for music - those in the masks created it by blowing down a tube of water and running their fingers around a glass rim. All very eerie. This is supposed to be a light-hearted comedy but it felt more like Macbeth.
Sir Toby Belch, (Jason Baughan), jollied things along a bit - by puking on stage then slipping in it - nice. I think Jason must have got into character by watching all those drunks that frequent the area around the Old Vic.
I have to be honest - I left during the interval as I'd had enough of the ridiculous androgeny and the creepy background scenery. Mr Hall would do better bringing in Danny La Rue.
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