Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Tom Littler
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or What You Will is so well known that this preposterous plot is now perhaps one of the author’s popular comedies and a goodliterary romp. It is extraordinary to think that in the canon of his work the play falls chronologically between the great tragediesHamlet and Troilus and Cressida. Although written in 1600 the play translates seamlessly into a 1870s setting which is the choice of director Tom Littler as part of the Guildford Shakespeare Company’s latest offering.
As explained in his forward to the programme the two periods are similar in their attitudes towards class, money and religion. QueenVictoria’s intense mourning is echoed by Olivia’s sombre clothing including her full black veiling and extending even to the black dress of her maid.
The set of designer Neil Irish reflects the Victorian era by using the existing bandstand in the charming gardens of GuildfordCastle. Irish surrounds it with hedges of astroturf and has built a surprisingly sturdy ornamental bridge to join it to the monument to Olivia’s, played by Rhiannon Sommers, late father. Much of the action takes place on this edifice, a platform surrounding a pillar which supports a bust of the lamented.
The choice of accents for the cast assists us in placingIllyria. From the very outset the sea captain who has rescued Viola from the ship wreck tells us that he is “from around these parts”from which we are to assume the mythical country is somewhere on the Devon Cornwall border, probably around Bude on that treacherous rocky coast.
A masterstroke was giving Malvolio, Matt Pinches, a Glaswegian accent worthy of Jazzer in The Archers. How else, in Victorian costume, could he have displayed his yellow stockings with their gaudy cross gartering other than by wearing the kilt?
The cast members of the Guildford Shakespeare Company use their unfailing talents so well that it was easy to forget being sat under a threatening sky, huddled under blankets, anorak hoods turned well up against an unseasonably stiff northerly breeze.
The music composed, arranged and directed by Mary McAdam plays an intricate part of the production and it was beautifully presented. Having incidental music by Gilbert and Sullivan completed the scene reflecting an utterly British summer’s evening, embodying culture, laughter and stoicism.
Photo Steve Porter ¦ Reviewed on Monday 16th June 2014