She plays Malvolia. Note, Malvolia not Malvolio. It’s an inspired piece of casting by director Simon Godwin for this modern dress revival seen at the NT in 2017. Greig’s Malvolia is in love with her employer Olivia but more than a little in love with herself. She’s a full-on control freak with a helmet of hair like a don’t-mess-with-me dominatrix, and who walks as if she is constantly trying to avoid dog poo. She’s fixated on keeping the shrubs in line. But her joylessness seems like self-punishment and Grieg suggests that beneath the control and self-control are high levels of anxiety.
It’s another performance that reminds the theatrical benefits that accrue when women get a chance to tackle some of the great Shakespearian roles only previously assayed by men. Greig’s Malvolia adds to a growing list that includes Maxine Peake’s Hamlet, Glenda Jackson’s Lear, Michelle Terry’s Henry V and Harriet Walter as Brutus and Prospero.
Doon Mackichan & Tamsin Greig. Photos by Marc Brenner.
Tamara Lawrance’s Viola. It’s easy to overlook this performance in a larky production that foregrounds the comedy over the melancholy. But Lawrence, also seen at the NT in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Anthony Neilson’s The Tell-Tale Heart, is a direct, sweet and true Viola, negotiating her own complex feelings of grief as others lust after her.
Soutra Gilmour’s design consisting of a revolving giant pyramid that transforms into a ship, church interior, glass house, plunge pool and more has plenty of style and panache.
Who hasn’t wanted to lose themselves in Illyria, here a topsy turvey place of endless shape-shifting illusions and sexual ambiguities where the entire population seems to be throwing off old identities and trying on new ones.
Imogen Doel, Tamara Lawrance, Tim McMullan & Daniel Rigby.
Michael Bruce’s music is lovely and works hand in hand with the original surviving songs (possibly composed by Elizabethan composer Thomas Morley), delivered by the clown Feste.
Love it or hate it (critics were divided) look out for the cabaret-style night club scene where a drag queen delivers a torch song based on the To be or not to be soliloquy from Hamlet.
There is an interesting homeo-erotic under-current to the relationship between Daniel Rigby’s witless, pink-suited, man-bun sporting Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Tim McMullan’s hedonistic, tight-jeaned Sir Toby Belch.
Tamsin Greig. Tamsin Greig. Tamsin Greig. Tamsin Greig. Tamsin Greig. And also, this is a good choice by the NT to entertain the nation at this particular time because for all this production’s broad comedy, this is a place about grief and loss.
You can stream Twelfth Night tomorrow night (23 Apr) at 7pm, here.