NODA review from 2006
by Gordon Hall
Snow and ice outside but, but inside a set with a warm glow of Illyria. Enter a drunken Sir Toby and from then on one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays was a constant pleasure.
The great strength of this production lay in the humour and here James Kay as Sir Toby gave one of the best performances of the role I have seen in many a year. He was more than ably assisted by the Aguecheek of David Oliver, avoiding the often effeminate interpretation so that their knockabout fun was sheer delight. Michael Hetherington was an impressive Feste, not as cynical and world weary as some but an ever-ready and perceptive wit with his Northern Ireland accent. A particular bonus was his singing throughout. Caroline Sawley completed the quartet of plotters with another of her finely judged performances as Maria.
As their puritan prey, Jonathan McGrath was a nicely odious and supercillious Malvolio though I would have preferred a little more obvious pomposity at times. The malice of the Sir Topaz scene was particularly well done with the ‘Black Comedy’ light is dark approach. (I often wonder if this scene is strictly necessary though- we should never feel sympathy for Malvolio)
It was good to see so many younger players on stage and for once a Viola and Sebastian who could pass as twins. Beth Lucena carried her male impersonation well as Viola and Antony Andrews also came over well as her brother.
Sarah Corke was an attarctive Olivia, managing the chage from grief to impetuous love well. As the spurned suitor, Duke Orsion, there was another strong performance from Les Ebbrell. The smaller roles of Fabian (Matthew King) and Antoonio (Alan Lear) upheld the standard, and scenery, lighting and costumes all combined to give support to an excellent evening.
Samuel Pepys might have thought it a ‘silly play’ but the appreciative audience at the Gladstone theatre would not have agreed.