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Twelfth Night review at Ludlow Castle

In his last year at Ludlow Festival, Michael Bogdanov and his company do not disappoint. This production is not about the innocence of love but rather the politics.

From the outset, where Viola (Heledd Baskerville) finds herself ill at ease in the sole company of the Sea Captain (Brendan Charleson), there are recognisable modern parallels. The superbly-paced drinking scene, with Sir Toby Belch (John Labanowski), Feste (Bill Wallis), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Frank Vickery) and Maria (Michelle McTernan) brings to mind 21st-century garrulous drunks in pubs and the landed gentry after an excess of Bolly. The moving prison scene, with a half-naked, hooded and bound Malvolio (Paul Greenwood) is uncomfortably up to date, reminding us that we are all capable of taking a joke to an inhumane extreme.

The ensemble playing is fluid, audible – despite the rain – and the production is driven onwards at a good pace, thanks largely to Baskerville’s Viola, although her excellent diction cannot compensate for a sometimes strident tone, depriving the text of much of its poetry.

This portrayal is more of the 21st-century than of the twenties in which the production is, unaccountably, set. Greenwood’s absolute belief in his role as Malvolio is remarkable. The letter scene has seldom been better played. Mention must also be made of the vibrant McTernan, who brings great charm to the role of Maria, with a lightness of touch combined with feisty sharpness of characterisation.

This lively production makes for a thought-provoking and enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Production Information

Ludlow Castle, June 19-July 10

William Shakespeare
Michael Bogdanov
Ludlow Festival
Cast Includes
Bradley Freegard, Heledd Baskerville, Eleanor Howell, Michelle McTernan, John Labanowski, Frank Vickery, Paul Greenwood, Bill Wallis
Running time

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