Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night premiered in the city for just two days before it tours the Middle East.
Which was a shame as the production, directed by Andrew Normington of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, is lively and entertaining.
There is minimal staging, simply three walls which double up as hedges for garden scenes, but that does not matter as the action is concentrated and quick paced. There are some fine performances from Emma Hamilton who plays a quick-witted disguised Viola and Emma Clifford who is a refined Olivia.
There are plenty of comic moments with Morgan Philpott as an affable Sir Toby Belch and Neal Foster as the foolish fop Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Colin R Campbell gives us a Puritan Malvolio whose pomposity is pricked when he is tricked into seeming insanity and who manages to evoke pity despite being so unpleasant.
This was a fleeting visit for the show which has been commissioned for the Abu Dhabi Festival. Hopefully it will return to Birmingham in the future as it would be a shame for so few people see the production on its home territory.
EVEN as I write this review, I feel a horrible pang of guilt. Here I am about to launch into how good this show is and how you should book tickets straight away - but you can’t, it’s already gone.
Unfortunately, the BSC only did four performances of the comedy on home soil. Now they’ve jetted off to perform it in the Middle East. Of course, there’s talk that the production will return to our shores afterwards and I really hope it does, because this is a great piece of entertainment.
Packed with colour and warmth, it’s the polar opposite of King Lear - which I recently saw in all its stormy glory at the RSC. In fact most of the Shakespeare I’ve seen has been in Stratford, so I was interested to see how the show would go down in Birmingham.
It was a young and lively audience who crowded into the theatre and it wasn’t long before the troupe had them roaring with laughter.
This is a great ensemble piece, but I think the biggest guffaws went to Sir Andrew and Sir Toby (Neal Foster and Morgan Philpott). The drunken double-act went down a storm and if Shakespeare’s genius had extended to spin-offs, surely he would have written one for this duo.
Elsewhere Emma Hamilton made a winsome Viola and Colin Campbell was spot-on as Malvolio, the puritan who is duped into donning yellow stockings.
Ingenious as these modern interpretations can be, it was nice to see the show played in period style. You can’t beat the ruff and doublets combination.
All-in-all an almost faultless take on one of the Bard’s best comedies.
LETTER FROM A TEACHER
Thank you so much for inviting us to the production of Twelfth Night. It was one of the best performances I have seen in Dubai in the 7 years I have been here. My A level students were all transfixed all the way through it and were very complimentary about the actors as we drove home. It was so nice to see Shakespeare played so well with focus on imaginative, lively and colourful characters rather than technical wizardry. The pace of the production was also very impressive. I thought as a production aimed at a Middle-Eastern audience it lived up to the expectations of Shakespearean theatre and how it would have originally been performed. If this company comes again to Ductac, I will certainly bring my students and next time!
Kate Lance, English College