Article Title:Review: Twelfth Night - preposterous and poised
Author or Credit:John Curry
Published on:24th January 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1088
Text:Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare Pumphouse Outdoor Theatre, Takapuna 8 pm 26, 28, 31 Jan; 2, 4, 8, 10 Feb 2006 This was an honest and heart-felt performance of Shakespeare's famous comedy about (among other things) gender confusion. Viola dresses up as a man and (wouldn't you just know it!) both the Count Orsino and the Countess Olivia fall in love with him/her. As played by Anna Stillman, it's no wonder. She looked great, understood what she was talking about and delivered the lines with both a directness and a mercurial flair that many of the rest of the cast needed to emulate. And man didn't she have poise onstage. Of course she got some good help from Donna Verey as a suitably regal Countess Olivia. But Olivia's melancholy seemed to have infected the entire country of Illyria there for a while. After the same group's hilarious, rollicking Midsummer Night's Dream of last year, I was surprised at the solemn, steady pace of things onstage this year. But by the time the celebrated drunk scene rolled around, the sure touch of John Donnan had us gulping with laughter. Particularly when he delivered some apposite lines at an annoying helicopter that just happened to interrupt one of his speeches. Suddenly there was an energy that the production could have done with more of. As the boozehound Sir Toby Belch he came across as an Elizabethan Sir Les Patterson! Still, the sincerity of the hard-working cast held our attention and the famous set pieces - the gulling of the snooty, social climber Malvolio and his subsequent appearence in vile yellow stockings, and later the hilarious sword fight between the timid, socially inept Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the equally timid Viola/Cesario - had the large audience in stitches. And weren't there some wonderful costumes! Has Sir Andrew ever looked more splendiferous? I doubt it. And Frank Wolfkamp looked every inch a Malvolio and wasn't his yellow stocking costume eye-achingly awful! He was not afraid of playing Malvolio as a truly odious pig, even going so far as to strike the servant Maria. No wonder she decided to have revenge on him. And there's another strength of the production - it's tremendously easy to follow the story (though, yes, it is rather preposterous ...) Both Paul Thompson as a sea captain and Martin van Iersal as Viola's brother Sebastian made a strong contribution amongst a variegated bunch of performances, but it seemed strangely perverse to cast an actor who either couldn't or wouldn't sing, as the jester Feste. In a play which contains one of English literature's most famous quotes about music, and a play which has some wonderful songs for Feste to sing, this made no sense at all to me. What he did to Come Away Death was deathly indeed. On my Gayometer the needle points to 'Not as gay as it could be', but, what the hay, the audience drifted off into the midsummer night with a lovely feeling - a cosy mixture of happiness and melancholy - just like the play we'd just seen. John Curry - 24th January 2006    
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