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Twelfth Night The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon HHHHI THIS excellent, extremely funny, mildly eccentric Twelfth Night is directed with speed and certainty by that deeply experienced man-of-the-theatre Christopher Luscombe, who knows more than anyone how to give an audience value for money (his production of Nell Gwynn reviewed in these columns in the summer was, for example, a marvellous evening's theatre).

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's strongest plays. It is comical, bawdy (an element I missed here, with a slight objection to bawdy's replacement with anal jokes) with a deep strain of gentle melancholy running throughout the play. Here, everybody falls in love with the wrong person and genderswitching does little to clear things up.

It's all a bit wacky, as when Viola (Dinita Gohil), who we first meet in a sari still fresh from her quickly forgotten shipwreck, falls in love with the slightly potty Orsino (a neat, well-constructed performance from debut RSC actor Nicholas Bishop).

Luscombe sees Orsino in this late Victorian concept of the play as a follower of Oscar Wilde and the Wildean Aesthetic Movement. We find him listening barefoot and open-shirted to dreamy piano music in his painting studio. Orsino's scantily-clad athletic male model is in perfect tune with the idealisation of the male in photography and painting which we get at this period, and Luscombe has made it a clever inclusion into the plot.

The English country house and garden is here in a smoothly changeable set that great architect Lutyens might well have admired, and it makes a perfect frame for Olivia's entrance as chatelaine of a wealthy estate. Kara Tointon is well-nigh perfect in a difficult part, the epitome of grace and charm.

Elsewhere, Adrian Edmondson is a nicely-complex Malvolio, John Hodgkinson makes Toby Belch the epitome of a harddrinking bully-boy cursed with intermittent flatulence, while Michael Cochrane makes an endearing silly Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Luscombe never can supress a desire to rev things up. Here Feste (Beruce Khan), who is a kind of Brahmin in a smart turban, leads the company in the song and dance numbers you might associate with Floradora, The Quaker Girl or The Maid Of The Mountains but not especially Shakespeare's England. But it is still worth every penny of the ticket money.

Until February 24.

Richard Edmonds

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 17, 2017
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