Twelfth Night at the Rose Theatre, Bankside FOUR STARS
Tim Welham as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Venetia Maitland as Maria and Richard Fish as Sir Toby Belch
Esther-Grace Button as Viola
TWELFTH Night is one of Shakespeare's best loved plays and a new adaptation by theatre group Permanently Bard has brought it beautifully to life at the Rose Theatre in Park Street. Pared down to a mere one hour 45 minutes, it races along with much jolity, slapstick and all the Shakespeare ingredients of mistaken identities. When Sebastian and his twin sister Viola are shipwrecked both are rescued independently and believe the other to be dead. Viola puts on a man's garb, calls herself Cesario and goes to work for Count Orsino, who is in love with the lady Olivia. She will have none of him as she is mourning for her brother. However, things change when Olivia meets Cesario and falls in love with him. Matters are complicated further when Sebastian turns up with his friend Antonio and is mistaken for Cesario and vice versa. Meanwhile, a sub plot takes place involving Olivia's uncle, the aptly named Sir Toby Belch and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Olivia's maid Maria wreaking emotional and psychological havoc on Olivia's steward Malvolio. Although the cutting of a good chunk of the text has caused some of the intricacies of the plots and the finer details to be lost, it is the strength of the acting that carries this through and makes it a great production. Indeed, all the actors have a real energy and seem very much at home on the Rose's tiny stage but make good use of the wider archaelogical site in which it lies - the scene in which Malvolio is in jail is particularly striking as he is seen languishing in a dank and damp recess at the back of the site. But it is Richard Fish as Sir Toby Belch who steals the show. He perfectly conveys the nastiness of the character in his bullying of Malvolio but shows also his softer side when trying to woo Maria. And he has pretending to be a drunken slob down to a T. This is a fabulous production - spirited and fun. Just as it should be. Twelfth Night is on at the Rose Theatre, Park Street until Saturday, November 30. Tickets cost £12. Call the box office on 020 7261 9565.