james debate
james debate

Thursday 26 March 2009

Directed by Michael Grandage
Written by William Shakespeare
Starring Derek Jacobi
Production company The Donmar
Theatre The Wyndham

My regular readers, and particularly those of you who are seasoned theatre patrons, will remember my previous review for the first production in the Donmar season at the Wyndham, Ivanov, starring Kenneth Branagh. In case you missed it, it was an absolutely wonderful production of a play by one of the finest ever playwrights, Anton Chekhov and achieved a maximum 5 star rating from me.

This bode well for the remaining plays in the season, and it was with some serious excitement that I went to see this second entry in the series, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring the legendary Derek Jacobi.

donmar twelfth night derek jacobi

Now the issue for me with Shakespearian productions is that generally they are hard to pull off without sounding contrived or ridiculously dated with obtuse language. This is where most productions fail, simply unable to convey the full detail and subtext of the play to audiences who are not always attuned to such phrasings.

Notable exceptions to this include any play starring Simon Russell-Beale, a man who is naturally gifted to making even the most absurd of Shakespearian dialogue sound completely natural and understandable. And for whatever reason, this production accomplishes a similar feat.

It could be the excellent acting, whether it is the impeccable Victoria Hamilton as Viola, or the comedy stylings of Ron Cook, an energetic dynamo who drives along any scene he is in, and Guy Henry, who you will recognize from Extras, who shows us what a talented (and frighteningly tall) actor he really is.

But of course one must mention the star of the show Derek Jacobi, playing one of the more understated roles, yet traditionally popular amongst thespians, of Malvolio. And indeed this Malvolio is one that will go down in the ages, alongside Henry Irving and William Ferrin.

However once again, as with Ivanov, special kudos needs to be given to the director Michael Grandage. This production is supremely pleasing to the eye and perfectly directed, bringing Shakespeare's work alive in ways that you will likely never have seen before, and full credit has to go to him for this excellent work.

The excellent run continues, on to the next, Madame Du Sade starring Judi Dench

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