Twelfth night at the National Theatre – a student review

MA Arts and Cultural Management student Alex Talbott took in Simon Godwin’s production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. Here she offers her perspective on the latest production of this much loved play:

The dynamism of Godwin’s production was unfaltering. From the moment the show opened Soutra Gilrmour’s pyramidal set slipped seamlessly from shipwreck to backstreet to palace via a nippy sports car. Music accompanied, adding to a somewhat carnivalesque atmosphere, with musicians switching on and offstage. While this provided a captivating setting for the show, the real innovation lay in Godwin’s ability to shift the focus of Twelfth Night towards the usually secondary character of Malvolio – here Malvolia – played by Tamsin Greig. As Olivia’s rigidly humourless steward, in the first half of the show Malvolia – complete with angular fringe and black culottes – trails ‘her lady’ eradicating fun. Yet as the play goes on, Greig portrays the complexity of Malvolia through a tragically comedic performance. What begins as light hearted slapstick morphs into a moving portrayal of vulnerability, as Malvolia’s love for and desire to please Olivia leave her an object of ridicule rendered insane. The treatment of Malvolia in light of her sexuality too highlights a more serious and sobering point.

Doon Mackichan’s Feste stood out, with another gender twist, Mackichan brought an occasional gravitas to the comic role, moving the audience with melancholic song before switching back to sharp sarcasm and knowing comments. Intermittent moments of hilarity also came from Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby played by Tim Mcmullan and his partner in crime the dimwitted Sir Andrew (Daniel Rigby) whose flourescent pink socks remain etched in my mind.

While I sometimes feel on seeing another advert on the tube for Macbeth, Hamlet or a Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s hold over the capital is monotonous and staid, productions like Godwin’s continue to prove me wrong. In a sense this production seemed to be out of kilter for the Leading Culture participants, having travelled across the globe to discuss and debate the promise of culture in the 21st century, they were faced with the work of a celebrated 16th century male playwright – but really this is indicative of great culture’s promise. Under new direction works like this are open for reinvention, at the National Theatre just a few minutes stroll from the original location of Shakespeare’s Globe, this performance might just have sparked some ideas that could be hanging around a few more centuries down the line.

King’s College London are screening a National Theatre Live production of Twelfth Night at the Strand Campus on Wednesday 26 April

Wednesday 26 April 2017 at 19.00

Arthur & Paula Lucas Lecture Theatre (S-2.18), Strand campus

Tickets: £5 King’s students | £10 standard students | £12.50 King’s staff and alumni, Northbank Card holders | £15 standard  To book tickets click here