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December 2004
Twelfth Night @ The OFS
Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night


Twelfth Night

The OFS
7.30pm (Sat mat 2.30pm)

Tues 30th - Sat 4th Dec 2004

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By Laura Morton

Despite being the fifth Oxford production of the play this year, Primavera's Twelfth Night offers a refreshing interpretation of Shakespeare's classic. Although undoubtedly funny, this production highlights the more morbid elements which often remain muted.

Some elements of the comedy were consciously underplayed. Tai Shan Ling's Feste was portrayed as more the outsider than is usual, with neither Olivia nor Toby and Sir Andrew appreciating the Fool's humour, leaving his monetary preoccupations abundantly clear.

Malvolio's (Neil Gatland) looming presence on the balcony at the close left the audience feeling uncomfortable and undermined the comic ending. Watching his earlier plight in jail by the wavering torchlight from 'Sir Topaz' above also made the audience more aware of the cruel conditions the steward was forced into. The autumnal setting also proved a fitting backdrop for the play.

Despite its more sombre elements however, the play proved to be surprisingly humorous. Shakespeare's wit was matched by cool delivery, especially by Viola (Charlie Covell) and imaginative staging. The box-tree scene was a particular gem. It was a joy to watch the heads of Sir Toby (Hugh Trimble), the superbly acted Sir Andrew (Colin Warriner) and Fabian (Conal McLean) pop up and down on the balcony in response to Malvolio's pompous antics below.

Another high point was Viola and Sir Andrew's swordfight. Here, their abject fear of fighting was taken to comic extreme with Sir Andrew and Fabian holding the rapiers from behind each character's back. Elsewhere, Cliodhna McAllister's Maria was an excellent foil to the drunkards' antics.

This was a skilled performance of a well-known play which combined intelligent blocking and strong acting. I look forward to seeing Primavera's A Streetcar Named Desire, showing at Playhouse in the New Year.

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