Ovo Theatre Company Present
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Adam Nichols
7 - 12 July 2008
A review by Tanith Lindon for EXTRA! EXTRA!
Ovo present a musical adaption of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity, transvestism and unrequited love. Set on a cruise ship in the roaring twenties, the production captures the essence of mischief making and class conflict on a sea of Charlestons and Cole Porter.
The live music (provided by jolly five-piece ‘Food of Love’) is a real treat and undeniably gets your foot tapping, particularly during the excellently choregraphed dance sequences. However, the marriage of 20’s cruise ship musical with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night sometimes seems headed for divorce. Although the setting is entertaining and the music lovely, they do not always cross over with what is happening in the play. Similarly, the swapping between the Shakespearean text and modern ad-libbing from the Les Dawson-esque cruise compere sits awkwardly. Call me a stickler for tradition, but it strikes me as bizarre that a character whose exit lines are rhyming couplets, then hands his co-star an oar saying, “Here, grab one of these”!
Having said that, other parts brought the two elements together superbly; the tricked Malvolio (Howard Branch) singing Marilyn Monroe’s classic love song from ‘Some Like it Hot”: ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ to a mannequin dressed as Olivia was hilarious and a perfect choice for the moment. Similarly, the rowdy sub-plot of Sir Toby Belch and his cronies works beautifully in the captive atmosphere of a cruise ship, as they drunkenly loll around the decks at all hours like an upper-class 18-30 holiday group.
Direction by Adam Nichols was particularly good in the staging of the piece, working to add fresh meaning to sometimes tricky Shakespearean lines and uniting the modern setting with the plot. The most beautifully orchestrated scene visually, was that in which Sir Toby Belch’s pranksters watch their trick on Malvolio unfold with glee. Malvolio places the cap on his pomposity by working through his daily exercise on deck – a ridiculous series of yoga-like postures - watched by the others amid fits of stifled giggles from behind deckchairs. As the scene continues, so does a fantastic exchange of hiding places as Malvolio moves about, with the prize for ‘most infectious laugh’ undoubtedly awarded to Maria (Anna Macleod).
Faith Turner as Viola is an impressive lead, both in her frustrated portrayal of a woman trapped in the role of a manservant and in her confident voice, injecting a great deal of emotion into her double-handed number with Olivia. Other stand-out cast members include Dan Warren (the raucous Sir Toby Belch) and Howard Salinger (Feste).
Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 8EQ
020 7353 3331
Tickets: 020 7353 3331
£12, £10 concs.
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