Twelfth Night - Theatre Review

Royal Shakespeare Company founder Peter Hall directs actress daughter Rebecca Hall and a rabble-rousing Simon Callow in TWELFTH NIGHT at the National Theatre.

ROYAL Shakespeare Company founder Peter Hall returns to the National Theatre to direct Twelfth Night as part of his 80th birthday celebrations.

Shakespeare’s comedy follows cross dressing Viola, who enters the service of Duke Orsino and falls in love with him while the Duke’s heart is set on a neighbouring countess Olivia.

In a plot laden with jealousy, mistaken identity, cross-dressing, fights and duels, Countess Olivia then becomes besotted with cross-dressing Viola as she presents Duke Orsino’s suits of love.

Peter Hall directs his daughter Rebecca Hall as a somewhat timid Viola, who presents to Olivia with a bashful self-consciousness. Often, this role rewards a more boyish, assertive approach, to make Olivia’s attraction to the cross-dressing Viola more believable.

However, her portrayal serves as a delicate counterweight to the irrepressible Simon Callow, who’s rabble-rousing as Sir Toby Belch offers him an ideal role, of which he makes full and hilarious use.

Interestingly, Hall has stripped the mocking of Malvolio, played by an excellent Simon Paisley Day, of some his humour and, locked in a cage in a stress position, we cannot help feel very sorry for the ill-fortuned courier.

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As with every Twelfth Night, Feste (David Ryall), the fool, is the unassuming soul of the piece. With wit, perspective, and experience, he alone keeps his head among the mistaken identity and deliberate tomfoolery.

Peter Hall has enthralled crowds for over half a century. Perhaps there’s a little of the fool in him, and a little of him in this world-weary yet defiant entertainer of mankind.

* Showing at the National Theatre, Cottesloe Theatre, South Bank, SE1, until Wednesday, March 2.