National Theatre, 12th April 2017
dir. Simon Godwin
What a complete masterpiece the National's production of 'Twelfth Night' truly is - so warm, with such wonderful performances, and all of this enabled by some truly stunning set design.
Talent abounds in the cast of the production, and virtually every performance is of note. In particular, though, Tamsin Greig's Malvolia has all the hard edges we have come to know in the character, but Greig plays the comedy with such verve and vigour it's easy to forget it's the same character. Greig, quite rightly, wins several rounds of applause, most notably perhaps during her appearance in her yellow, cross-gartered tights, accompanied by some deliciously funny physical comedy touches (I won't spoil it for those of you who are still to see it). A beautiful performance; Greig is dazzlingly brilliant at every turn.
Another highlight of the considerably talented cast comes in the form of the brilliant double act of Tim McMullan as Sir Toby Belch and Daniel Rigby as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Rigby is the perfect foil to McMullan and their physical set pieces in particular are wonderful. They are often at their best when accompanied by Imogen Doel's magnificent Fabia.
The staging, though, moved this from a brilliant performance into a jaw-dropping one. The Olivier's stage has always lent itself to some impressive and ambitious staging, but this ranks amongst my very favourites for set design. The revolve is put to full use throughout, including for the installation of a hot tub and fully working fountain (the revolve truly is an incredible piece of engineering. You can read more about it here). A huge staircase dominates the stage at the play's opening, acting as the ship's lookout as Sebastian and Viola are shipwrecked, and these stairs become the varied sets for the remainder of the play. They split around one central column and various panels are encased within, allowing for some moments which are almost filmic in scale.
Godwin's direction also adds new depth to the play through the gender fluid approach to casting. It allows for the exploration of another LGBT+ relationship in addition to the one between Sebastian and Antonio, and brings a further contemporary touch to the play. It is a very welcome addition indeed.
It is a skilful, hilarious and very contemporary performance, and you really must go and see it.
'Twelfth Night' plays in the National's Olivier Theatre until Saturday 13th May. Tickets are available here.