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Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare Live
YOU can call it Twelfth Night, or What You Will: I doubt The Baiting of a Puritan would bring in the right sort of audience, for you want to attract those who love dressing up and cooing over weddings while the men in white coats fix the straitjacket on the ones that don’t fit in.
There are many powerful moments in Gill Morrell's take on this bittersweet play. The humiliation of Malvolio (Graham Paton) by the '’Rudesby’ element, Sir Toby (Rod Moor-Bardell), Maria (Charlotte Howard) and Fabian (Mike Harley), was both as savage and as funny as the play demands. But when it seems likely they will ‘make him mad indeed’ nobody in the audience was laughing.
The love interest between Olivia (a volatile, clear-voiced Verity Neeves) and the reluctant Viola (Anne Roberts), in disguise as a boy, was convincing enough, but the current fad for getting surplus actresses to play men’s roles works less well, as Feste and Antonio are both played by women (Al Cubbin and Sue Sedgwick). A pirate with a visible bust makes the weird gay sub plot about love and betrayal pretty difficult to decipher.
A soft female Feste is an even greater lost opportunity.
This jester is a mordant outcast surviving a tough life by wit and virtually begging for tips - a sharp and haunting character.
The production's other gem, beside Graham Paton's Malvolio, is Paul Batson's performance as the hapless ninny Sir Andrew. By facial expressions, comic timing and total ease with their roles these two veterans were a joy to watch.
The rural setting at Lackham has a large garden space and there was the inevitable straggle of ladies in pretty costumes to help fill it up. At least they were given something to do beside giggle, in the shape of an inspired veiled pavane, when Viola first visits Olivia.
All in all, a curate's egg, being very good in parts.
Tickets are still available from (01225) 722987.