The company wrung from the play every moment of comedy, verbal and non-verbal. They brought it up to date as any good director of Shakespeare does, without losing any of the original script. We were not allowed to take any photos while the play was on but we snapped the cast strolling about in role before it began, Maria and Sir Andrew Aguecheek playing skittles with the children in the audience, Maria and Sir Toby Belch offering insults ("What a shabby lot!" wisecracked Maria, in character) and what looked like liquor, with an equal hand, to the adults in the front row. Duke Orsino, evidently something of a poseur, had set up a table as Poet In Residence and was signing programmes.
Emily Tucker, as Viola, was as feisty and dynamic as ever a Viola could be, and her accidental ensnaring of the heart of Olivia was quite understandable. The conversion of Rhiannon Sommers' black-veiled angry mourning virago (Olivia) into a flirtatious smitten noblewoman was accomplished with convincing ease on both parts. Sarah Gobran's perfomance was a triumph as the knowing, sexy, cleverly conniving waiting woman, Maria.
Toby Belch was played for all his drunken, rascally, worthless worth by Chris Porter, and the foolery between Maria and Sir Toby was masterfully embued with inventive stage business, both subtle and outright slapstick. Sir Andrew, played by Richard Galazka, was suitably bumbling. He could have been more lanky and yellow-haired, but his dancing had the audience roaring.
And the supernovae among all these stars were Malvolio and Feste the Fool, the enemies around which the sub-plot is built. Morgan Philpott was a Fool with a light, dry wit that almost hid his vengeful malevolence towards Malvolio until the success of the rascals' humiliating trick. His lovely tenor voice and tuneful accoustic guitar were spell-binding.
Matt Pinches as Malvolio played the part as an extraordinary persona of pomposity, obsessiveness and self-love, expressed through a piercing Edinburgh accent and a posture that suggested a sharp object had been lodged in his rectum, as he thrust out his small chest and glared stiffly at his tormentors. His costume in the well-known "cross-gartering" scene was a stroke of brilliance (I won't spoil the surprise).
This was a thoroughly entertaining evening and a memorable production of a familiar and much loved play by this talented professional Guildford-based company.
"Twelfth Night" is at the Castle Gardens, Guildford, until 28th June.
"HenryV" is to be staged in Guildford Cathedral Grounds 14th - 26th July
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