Monday, 26 October 2009

With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain.......

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 Orsino

At 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.

Miltos Yerolemou brings boundless energy to the pivotal role of Feste

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 Yerolemou

Having 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.

Alexandra Gilbreath receives direction from Greg Doran in her role as Olivia


  1. Hmm, sounds like it needed a bit of polishing.

    I would have enjoyed the experience and sheer location, though.

    Great review, Michael.

  2. Interesting what you say, Michael - the Times reviewer felt much the same, especially about Richard Wilson. I think once someone has become so famous for just one particular character (especially as it is such a forceful one) it is hard to see them as anyone else. I haven't yet spoken to my friends to see what they thought to the production.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Even though this play was part of my 'O' level syllabus, sadly, I don't know it sufficiently well(!) to comment on your impression. I think one problem that Richard Wilson has is always sounding like Richard Wilson, who sounds like Victor Meldrew, thus always cementing the image! Glad, however, that you enjoyed the outing overall.

  4. A visit to the theatre is always to be savoured and I'm sorry that this production was not quite up to the mark. A slow first act can put me off instantly although one wonders about the director as this isn't exactly a new play!

    the cast seem to be having fun during rehearsals and I am glad to see that Richard Wilson is very much alive!