RSC: Loads of Tricks and Lots of Treats


Twelfth Night
Royal Shakespeare Theatre

By Richard Lutz

This is a play about the pursuit of love in a crazed, tricky and askew world. Most of the characters are not what they seem. But they all want the same thing: partnership and passion. Twins separate and crave each other; lovers pine for an object of desire that is not as he (or she) seems; a self deluded Puritan thinks dressing up in yellow tights (and little left to the imagination) will capture the distracted heart of his boss who has imprisoned herself in a nun-like state but wants a lover.

Twelfth Night is about something that is not. And the RSC pulls it off beautifully. The stage is at odd angles, the  character with the most lines ( Sir Toby Belch) is plastered most of the time;  and, the wise words come, not from the courtly or the educated, but from a cheeky clown called Feste.

The other characters sweep and sigh and bounce around with desire and garland the performance with some of Shakespeare’s most enchanting language: lyrical,  funny and sometimes downright rude.

It is a simple joy to watch and hear this play about tricks and the heart.

Of course, many know the play simply for the self deluded Malvolio who thinks his lady will love him if he puts on those stripey garters and prats about with a leering smile. He is wrong. She hates him for it.  Most productions offer up a Malvolio who deserves all he gets in terms of punishment. Jonathan Slinger gives this Puritan role a human touch. This Malvolio is to be pitied and the other characters laughing at him are belittled for their cruelty.

The RSC has rolled three plays- this one, Comedy of Errors and The Tempest- under the banner of ‘shipwreck plays’, productions that are hinged on survivors from the sea encountering a strange land..and themselves.

If the other two ascend to the heights of this Twelfth Night… this witty play about tricks  and deception…  we will have a ball this summer as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

+until 6th Oct. Tix: 0844 800 1110