Brilliant, riotous and just plain bloody funny. That’s Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of drunken revelry, unrequited love, and confused identity, as magnificently brought to life by the Guildford Shakespeare Company.
412 years after its first recorded performance in February 1602 at Middle Temple in London, Twelfth Night delights once more thanks to the talented people drawn together on and off the stage by the Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC). Tickets for this one are selling fast. Many performances are already sold out, as has become the norm.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will (to give the play its full title) is one of Shakespeare’s most accomplished comedies. It’s also a rare Shakespearian beast by not relying upon a sweepingly dominant figure such as Hamlet, Richard III, or Macbeth, to drive proceedings. Rather it gives flight, and fully-drawn life, to a memorable host of joyously entertaining and nuanced characters, including Sir Toby Belch, Feste the Fool, Olivia, Malvolio and Viola.
Back at the helm after guiding 2013’s As You Like It, director Tom Littler delivers a production that’s replete with immaculate physical comedy to complement Shakespeare’s rich text. Though ostensibly set in the 1870s costumes and set designs don’t overwhelm the actors. All too often ambitious misguided concepts of backdrop and apparel subsume the delivery of the Bard’s words. Thankfully that’s not the case with this rendering of Twelfth Night.
Following powerful performances as Macduff in 2013’s Macbeth and Iago in 2014’s Othello respectively, Morgan Philpott and Chris Porter return to the GSC fold, once again displaying the brilliant comedic timing that graced 2012’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Porter’s larger-than-life drunken Sir Toby and Philpott’s white-faced guitar playing Feste are masterclasses of physical comedy.
Possibly the GSC veteran is Matt Pinches. Co-founder and Joint Artistic & Executive Producer he’s appeared in all 21 of their productions to date. Armed with a Scottish accent evoking the spirit of Billy Connelly, his performance as the obsequious Malvolio frequently reduced the audience to hysterics – the highlight involving yellow stockings and a kilt…
Wonderfully portrayed by Emily Tucker, in her debut for GSC, the shipwrecked Viola lies at the heart of Twelfth Night. Spending much of her time disguised as Duke Orsino’s page boy Cesario, Tucker delivers an engaging performance of sympathetic and measured bafflement as she valiantly ducks the advances of Olivia, is scared witless by the prospect of a duel by sword and pistol, or suppresses her affection for Duke Orsino.
The final words of Twelfth Night state:
“But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.”
Once again GSC strived to deliver a superbly realised interpretation utilising a gifted ensemble. And once again they’ve succeeded in pleasuring a band of fortunate watchers.
Twelfth Night runs until 28 June in Guildford Castle Grounds. The second production of Guildford Shakespeare’s 2014 Summer Season is Henry V and runs 14-26 July in Guildford Cathedral Grounds.
Production photos of Twelfth Night by Steve Porter can be viewed here.
Further information on Guildford Shakespeare Company can be found here.