Twelfth Night, RSC, Stratford
THE HORN of a steam train, the sound of a sitar and rousing musical numbers – director Christopher Luscombe’s Victorian setting offers shades of Downton Abbey and Gilbert and Sullivan with a hint of Oscar Wilde.
With a surprisingly slim Toby Belch and oriental additions so palpable you can smell the shisha smoke, this Twelfth Night was certainly different, but first and foremost, it was genuinely funny.
Much of that was down to Ade Edmondson, who was making his RSC debut, as the hapless Malvolio. It may have been far removed from the roles of Vivian in The Young Ones or Eddie in Bottom, but his comic craft served him very well as the lovelorn steward of yellow stockings fame. His timing and skill with physical comedy was to be expected, but not so the musical flair he displayed.
Dinita Godil (Viola) and Esh Alladi (Sebastian), wearing vibrant saris, both shone, while Beruce Khan as the Fool injected some joyous musical numbers.
The lively interplay between the scheming noblemen – Sir Toby Belch (John Hodgkinson) and Sir Andrew (Michael Cochrane) – was never better than when they used statues to conceal their complicity in the cunning plan to trick Malvolio into his attempted seduction of Olivia, played with effortless conceit by Kara Tointon.
The sexual ambiguity of the performance was captured in Viola and Sebastian, allowing the audience to ponder the genderless nature of love and attraction,
while romantically charged scenes and unrequited love juxtaposed with slapstick and the failed yellow stockinged seduction.
The music was successful in creating a cinematic transition between scenes, and was both jolly and haunting, and while the Victorian setting may not have felt a little forced, it certainly looked good on stage, as it had when adopted for the most recent Love’s Labour’s lost and Love’s Labour’s Won.
Twelfth Night runs at the RST until February 24. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.