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Oliver Gray, directing a five-actor ensemble, has striven to create an experience Shakespeare himself might well have been comfortable with on tour. There are as many versions of Twelfth Night as there are performances, with countless interpretations for director and cast to build around. This one is delivered at a blistering pace; physical, bawdy and unashamedly a comedy. There is tragedy, unrequited love and brilliant verse in Twelfth Night but it is the way this small, young and talented cast bring out the laughter from every situation that makes this particular production a success. This is a young and talented cast which bodes well for the future of a small company who are currently in their 20th year of touring.
The main strength of this Twelfth Night is the overall quality of the acting. That and the direction from Oliver Gray – and of course the play itself – combine for an ideal evening of open-air theatre. The scenes between Olivia and Viola (disguised as Cesario) are especially well done. There's a lot of sexual ambiguity there, as indeed there is in the Orsino/Viola scenes. And there's a beautifully worked out and choreographed ending. Shakespeare's text is packed with well-known sayings – and of course some outrageous innuendo.
Performed by the company's customary cast of five, who, while they made one laugh, and I only wish I could say that about every Shakespearean comedy I've seen, at the same time also provided glimpses of the misery that goes hand in hand with the "midsummer madness", the play's misunderstandings and mistaken identities. Directed by Oliver Gray who, like Sir Andrew Anguecheek can certainly "cut a caper", not to say "a dance of delusion", the set pieces from the garden scene to the trio "holding their peace", were splendidly realised, while there was any amount of the inventive funny business one has grown to expect and love from this company. It says much for the skills of the director and his "famous five" that, as this evening of "sweet theatrical trickery" came to a close, despite the fact that he was still damp, dangerous and determined to be "reveng'd on the whole pack" of those who had mistreated him, they managed to leave one feeling every sympathy for the unfortunate "cross garter'd and yellow stocking'd" Malvolio.
Like the original Shakespearean productions, this quartet's antics appealed very much to the modern equivalent of the "Groundlings" in the audience. More restraint was shown in the portrayal of the Scottish- accented, much-abused Malvolio, and although occasionally sailing very near the too-broad comedy wind the arch plotter Maria came over as a very dangerous adversary.
Bristol Evening Post