An unusual but glorious 'Twelfth Night'

The Royal Shakespeare Company's Twelfth Night, now in the Stratford repertoire, seems somewhat unconventional Shakespeare, but is nevertheless gloriously entertaining.

It is for the most part played - until one grew accustomed to it, it seemed almost under-played - in a restrained, naturalistic style which proved to be completely successful.

Diana Rigg was a splendid Viola, playing with a tender pathos in the romantic passages and a delicious sense of comedy which made the duel scene with David Warner, as Aguecheek, a most memorable piece of comic theatre.

David Warner played Aguecheek absolutely straight , but one will not soon forget his look of stunned horror when he finds Viola's sword-blade apparently in his breast but in fact caught under his right arm.

Brewster Mason made an almost gentlemanly and rather dashing Sir Toby, but the most interesting performance of the evening came from Ian Holm as Malvolio.

Here was a Malvolio with no semblance of dignity from start to finish: a character for whom it was impossible to feel the slightest sympathy in spite of the guilty tittering at his final degradation.

This was a malevolent and indeed a venomous Malvolio. One may have doubts about the interpretation, but it was a triumph of the actor's art.

Alan Howard as Orsino, the ageing adolescent , wore his heart most ostentatiously on his sleeve and Estelle Kohler , as Olivia, proclaiming her grief for her brother in an equally obtrusive and adolescent fashion, convincingly demonstrated the emptiness of their respective passions.

Patsy Byrne played a slightly hysterical Maria, while Sebastian was robustly played by Christopher Bidmead.

Norman Rodway as Feste seemed occasionally ill at ease with Guy Woolfenden's somewhat complicated settings of his songs, but succeeded in portraying a wonderfully wise and witty fool.

The production was directed by Clifford Williams with settings by Sally Jacobs.

Charles Godden

Morning Star, 18.6.66


Playing Shakespeare/Twelfth Night