Production: Twelfth Night
Venue: York Theatre Royal
Shakespeare’s comedies can fall short when they’re rallied next to his monolithic tragedies; but Twelfth Night proves to have the same timeless qualities as Shakespeare’s more exalted plays – with an added endearing sheen. York Theatre Royal’s production exposed this unique sheen with finesse.
Most immediately noteworthy were the impressive costume and stage designs. Olivia radiated a melancholic sexiness in a lacy black gown, whilst Viola’s unstable identity was reflected by her clumsy, oversized male attire. The set, imbued with rustic exoticism, mixed modern aesthetics with Renaissance atmospherics, setting the tone of Illyria and the festivities of Twelfth Night, where things are never as they seem. A single set was used throughout all three acts to fine effect, where the centrality of a swing added dynamism to the character’s movements. The physicality of the play was emphatic, fully realising moments of intended heightened comedy.
The well-executed comedy, however, seemed to over-compensate somewhat for the dimness of the melancholic romance. The impact of Viola’s impassioned lines of infatuated desperation seemed to pass by without prominence. Despite such shortcomings, the depiction of Malvolio’s comeuppance managed to express both comedy and cruelty. The result is exactly what Feste conclusively soliloquises as the intention of the play: it strives to please us everyday.
Twelfth Night is showing at the York Theatre Royal until 26th May