Have a bloody good time if it’s designer Robert Jones’ Ilyria in Gregory Doran’s Twelfth Night, currently in the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon.
Q. What should I do in Ilyria?
A. Have a bloody good time if it’s designer Robert Jones’ Ilyria in Gregory Doran’s Twelfth Night, currently in the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon.
No detail has been spared in conjuring up Duke Orsino’s court and it is a feast for the senses. Musicians meander through a sumptuous palace filled with clouds of incense under a fierce Adriatic sun. “Give me excess of it,” says the Duke; wondering whether music be the food of love and inadvertently setting the tone for this lively and hugely enjoyable RSC production. Passions, whether of love or anger, run high in all characters great and small; from Olivia to Feste. It makes for a frenetic high-octane evening into which some of the details in the text disappear but that hardly matters.
Pamela Nomvete is the best Maria I have seen and she is not the only one making the most of a minor role. Sam Alexander’s Sebastian is a convincing twin brother to Nancy Carroll’s fey Viola and does very well in his scenes with Simeon Moore’s shaggy Antonio, a subtle performance underpinning the many homoerotic inferences in the play.
Mindful of the play’s title, there is something wonderfully festive about Doran’s production: full use is made of the audience and Miltos Yeromelou’s musical Feste is irresistibly charismatic; especially when he’s leading the collaborative, percussive interludes skilfully extrapolated from the play’s songs. This raucous, feelgood backdrop is perfect for Alexandra Gilbreath’s intemperate Olivia and Richard McCabe’s rambunctious Sir Toby but it suits neither Richard Wilson’s Malvolio nor James Fleet’s Sir Andrew: both instantly forgettable performances.
This is not the best Twelfth Night you’ll ever see but it’s great fun and you’ll come out really looking forward to Christmas: the perfect time for a spot of indulgence.