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.
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.
(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.
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.
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'
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.