Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is my favourite of his comedies so I lept at the chance to go and see it last night in the Minerva Theatre in Chichester (last minute spare and cheap ticket). This is my first experience of this particular theatre and what a beauty it is, absolutely lovely, intimate yet it looked like quite a huge amount of seating.
Flute Theatre had their cast of 7 portraying all the characters in this abridged version of the play, adapted by Kelly Hunter. It was a polished piece, despite one of them slipping over on water at one point, and the actors were drilled. It was a very physical piece too, all the actors had to display their fitness with the way the play had been directed and choreographed. They also played all the instruments and there was music accompanying the performance for almost the entire time. This gave a feel of almost street theatre which was sometimes appropriate and sometimes not.
I’ve studied this play and there are many themes in it but I don’t remember water being one of them. So what huge tubs of water dotted around the periphery of the playing area were doing there is beyond me. There was obviously a reason but it wasn’t drawn out in the playing, although a couple of them did use one of them. The actors did convey an understanding of most of the words that they were saying, meaning that even the most new to Shakespeare could probably follow it, however there were some meanings that were very important that were lost and it didn’t seem like the actors understood those particular lines. What was the most detrimental to my enjoyment was the actress playing Viola – the main role, had such a strong accent that when she spoke quickly I just couldn’t understand what she was saying and that took me out of being able to enjoy the production.
There were some sections just devoted to physical acting with no words where I wanted to shout “get on with it”. I’m not sure why music needed be played throughout the play either. Shakespeare has such beautiful and clever wording particularly in this play and the gaps meant some of this delicious language was left out, when it was abridged already it felt like these things were just devices for the sake of it.
The actor playing Malvolio acted his part beautifully, bringing in a masochistic side to the character which I hadn’t seen before but fitted perfectly. His attempts at smiling were both funny and sad. The actor playing Sir Andrew and Sebastian moved seamlessly in a few seconds between them and that was brilliantly done.
Some strong performances, some interesting ideas, some not so. I’ve never felt so sorry for Malvolio in any production as I did in this one. So some positive, some negative: not the best production of Twelfth Night I’ve seen, but not the worst.