THEATRE REVIEW: Twelfth Night ★★★
The National Theatre, London
Saturday 13th May 2017
To true reason why Shakespeare is so universal is due to the limitless adaptions that you could contrive from any one of his creations; I think I’ve enough adaptations of Romeo & Juliet or Midsummer Night’s Dream either on tour or from The Globe Theatre itself to back up this statement, but Twelfth Night on the other hand is a play which I have only come across twice, with the last outing two years ago, and knowing how much I trust a National Theatre production, I was very much looking forward to this adaptation starring Tamsin Greig in the role of Malvolia, originally named Malvolio, as it is usually played by a male.
The National Theatre are known for making the most of their productions and thrusting them with big budgets and elaborate costumes and production values, with Twelfth Night making no exception to the case; Soutra Gilmour's grand staircase design was a spectacle at the heart of the show with multi-purposeful décor, and I even loved the little paddling pool and club atmosphere in one scene, though I did feel at times that the direction from Simon Godwin towards the characters was too serious, almost completely mirroring the atmosphere curated around the locations.
Not appearing until quite late on into the action, as soon as Tamsin Greig steped onto the stage and completely shone, her presence was hugely known. I found her portrayal of Malvolia completely captivating, constantly being able to see the hard work and passion she must have produced to bring this unique take on the character to life, and futhermore in changing the gender on one of Shakespeare's most beloved characters, she gave absolute absolute justice to the role. The Chemistry in particular between Greig and Nicky Wardley, who portrayed Maria, the servant to Phoebe Fox's Olivia, was quite enthralling and brought so much laughter in a little musical number from Greig herself; you could tell that the three performers were having such a raucous time on stage and you could as a result sense this coming off from the audience.
Elsewhere, Oliver Chris was as always a stable point to any National Theatre production with his take on Duke Orsino, to which in this adaption is celebrating his 40th Birthday with once again Gilmour's grand and vibrant design making waves of impressions throughout. Tamara Lawrence's gener-bending take on Viola, who finds herself dressing as a boy, and under the name of 'Cesario', to be part of Orsino's court, also brought silence to the auditorium as she take us in the palm of her hands throughout and had us engaged through her story to woo Olivia on Orsino's behalf, whilst having some seriously hilarious consequences as a result.
Overall, Twelfth Night produces a mixed bag of talent and commitment from its team, to the result that it never feels like a fully polished production with waves of pure brilliance in setting and pace counterbalanced with moments of dreary character arcs that do not get enough attention in detail, such as the members of Orsino's court, but is saved from Tamsin Greig's stellar portrayal as Malvolia.