After Director Simon Godwin gave a disclaimer, by way of a pre-show speech to the first audience of the National Theatre’s Twelfth Night, the full house collectively braced themselves for a dress rehearsal. This however, was not the case. The show ran smoothly, the actors passed on their adrenaline to the crowd, and I was honoured to be amongst the first to see this masterpiece.
With a crescendo from the band and lights directing all gaze toward the revolving shipwreck, a plague of goosebumps spread through the audience. The modernisation of this show – car, apartment buzzer etc. really worked and seemed to lend itself to the text, as if this was the way Shakespeare had planned it all along. The costumes were brilliant and almost bridged the gap between the way this play was first performed, and the modern version set out before us on the National’s stage.
Sir Toby Belch (Tim McMullan), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Daniel Rigby) and Maria (Nicky Wardley) formed a fabulous trio – bursting onto the stage with such natural comedy, as if we were watching three real friends just having a good time.
As is often the case with Shakespeare, actors can get lost in the text to a point where they become mindless robots, regurgitating a monologue they spent a long time committing to memory. It becomes almost like they have no idea what they’re really saying. These actors, however, transported the audience into another world; one in which all of the people can understand every single line Shakespeare wrote – no easy feat.
Tamara Lawrance was endearing, funny and perfectly cast as Viola. The struggle to conceal her identity and live as a man was played beautifully. Oliver Chris was a fun and relatable Orsino – saddened at the prospect of turning 40 and desperate, battling to win the affection of the prettiest woman in Illyria.
Tamsin Greig was expectedly hilarious as Malvolia – usually a male role. Her uptight and straight-faced character reminded me a little of a female Severus Snape. She involved the audience so naturally – the audiences’ reactions affected hers, to the point where she blessed a sneezing member of the crowd, mid-monologue.
The star of the show, in my opinion, was Phoebe Fox as Olivia. Olivia has long been one of my favourite Shakespearean characters, and having watched this show many times before, Fox is the best I’ve ever seen. Such a natural, real and flawless performance.
The revolving set was slightly epic and provided all the various locations, complete with water fountain, swimming pool and gardens.
Go and see Twelfth Night playing now at The National Theatre. Book tickets here.