The ninety minute trip down to Stratford and visit to the RSC was as ever a sheer delight. Renovation, or should I say rebuilding of the Memorial Theatre continues apace with most of the external appearance of the building pretty much as the architect intended…. one presumes. The Courtyard Theatre again provides a more than suitable venue whilst the building works continue apace.
The photos were taken during rehearsal.
Nancy Carroll as Viola and Jo Stone-Fewings as OrsinoAt the risk of mixing metaphors, this production is certainly a game of two halves and to my mind this problem lies less with the acting than with the directing of Greg Doran. As with all productions by this company the acting is uniformly strong and there is no sense amongst the cast of anyone being the ‘star’. I enjoyed the air of complicity between actors and audience, generated particularly by Feste and Viola, which added to the fun without spoiling the magic.
James Fleet considers direction for his role of Sir Andrew Aguecheek
However, the first act struggles to clearly set up the plot, ship wrecked girl decides to dress as boy, countess falls in love with ‘boy’….etc, etc. The portrayal of Malvolio as a self obsessed, pompous man, truly deserving of a plot to cause his downfall, fails to come across clearly. Fine, I hear you say, a director can only work with the clay he is given, but to have major characters delivering important plot lines as they exeunt upstage, left or right is truly unforgivable.
Richard McCabe as Sir Toby Belch rehearses a scene with Feste
The closing scenes of the first act and the entire second act truly hit their stride; the setting up of Malvolio for his down fall is truly comedic measured by any yardstick. Having said this, unfortunately for me, Richard Wilson is cursed by his deserved success as the TV character Victor Meldrew. At times it felt as if Victor was playing the part of Malvolio, so alike are the characters. Nevertheless, I was reminded that Malvolio is both a far more presumptuous and a more put-upon figure than Victor Meldrew ever was.
Richard Wilson shares a humourous moment with Miltos YerolemouHaving had my little whinge I have to say that this is a solid production. It’s a mixture of a lot of pleasure and a bit of pain: for half the time, at least, Doran gets the balance about right. There was much to enjoy here and I did, particularly once the scattershot first half was over.