Writer: William Shakespeare
Directors: Matt Bulmer and Liam Williams
Venue: Theatre Tent
Reviewer: Fergus Morgan
Twelfth Night is arguably Shakespeare’s funniest play. Twelfth Night with a cast of comedians then should be a riot. It’s not.
Fight In The Dog’s pacy, highly cut, one-off production at Latitude ahead of a performance at London’s Wonderground, is only ever mildly amusing. It never really mines the text’s rich vein of farcical comedy enough, and despite some solid direction from Liam Williams, the large but uneven cast do not infuse the piece with enough verve to keep the large audience entertained.
This Twelfth Night is actually set on Twelfth Night. Mountains of bin bags and armies of empty bottles skirt the bare stage – clearly the bin men haven’t been since Christmas – and Williams’ hoarse, Scottish Toby Belch is still resolutely celebrating with can after foaming can.
It’s a staging reminiscent of Sean Holmes’ production for Filter – not least with its inclusion of a live band, John Bull &The Bandits – but although it lends affairs a chaotic, carnival-esquire atmosphere, Fight In The Dog’s version still struggles to find an identity.
Tessa Coates is good as a sloaney, sardonic Olivia, and once Matilda Wnek’s Viola has inadvertently captured her heart, her gasping, weak-kneed attempts to win her are gloriously fastidious. There is strong work too from Kieran Hodgson as a moping Aguecheek, from Alex Owen as an awkward backpacker trying rid himself of Antonio (Alex Mackeith), and from Alistair Roberts as a ghoulish, gangly Malvolio.
But in truth, this is a weak ensemble. For comedians, the cast neither root out the multifarious Shakespearean gags, nor squeeze in some of their own anywhere near enough. Williams’ production is swift and light, but it hovers somewhere perilously close to gimmick.