Twelfth Night sometimes opens with Viola asking where she is, sometimes with Orsino asking for more music, but on opening night in Stratford it opened with two badly dressed protestors describing “deep water despair” at the BP spillage story, “green and yellow melancholy”.
Bruce MacKinnon (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Kevin McMonagle (Feste), Jonathan Slinger (Malvolio) and Nicholas Day (Sir Toby Belch) in Twelfth Night at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon (previous pictures shows Emily Taaffe as Viola) Photo: Tristram Kenton
The RSC took this attack on their sponsors with a good grace and by now David Farr’s production has probably incorporated the ditty in the show proper. It was certainly no worse a lyric than some of the stuff spouted by Kevin McGonagle’s Elvis Costello-ish Feste later on.
And it certainly would have had a spine-stiffening, buttock-clenching effect on Jonathan Slinger’s pinstripe-suited, mustachioed Malvolio, who chases after Cesario in a motorised buggy marked “management use only”.
Farr’s staging has that loose, baggy feel of the recent (much better) Filter revival, and you do start to wonder when the RSC might start doing these plays as, well, RSC plays rather than as everyone else’s version of them.
Emily Taaffe’s Viola is almost inevitably played in an Irish accent, emerging drenched from the tank under the stage, Bruce Mackinnon’s fairly funny Aguecheek calls for a taxi to the airport (was that a protest against public transport, I wonder?) and Felix Hayes’s mooncalf Fabian, contemplating Malvolio in prison, says it’s religion, innit.
All very well, and the kids love it, but it all rather looks like the RSC catching up and currying favour. At least Slinger’s the funniest RSC Malvolio in ages, propelling himself with constipated discomfort in his yellow stockings and baring his backside on exiting. Or was that a protest against the audience?