Tightly directed by Bryn Holding in a minimalist set by David Woodhead, the Sell a Door company once again bring a fresh, engaging and illuminating interpretation to Greenwich Playhouse. This, their first foray into Shakespeare, takes us into the Edwardian era, with its hierarchical structures of rank and position, evident at all levels, setting the mood for intrigue and revenge.
But Twelfth Night is, of course, a comedy, and in the opening moments the scene is set. This Illyria is no far-flung outpost of the Ottomon Empire, nor a 1930s Wodehouse England but a reflection of reality as found in the one place where all are levelled – the great Edwardian music hall Palace of Varieties.
Amy Buttersworth's feisty Feste is a fool in battered top hat and tails, an early Bud Flanagan, mocking the gentry with a wit and wisdom of the stand-up comic, able to put down any heckler who dares try to outwit him (her). This Feste is indeed a clever “corrupter of words” and no 'fool'.
Tim Fordyce's drunken and lecherous Belch, Stephen Barden's effetely mannered Aguecheek and Ella Moody's put-upon, North country Maria are a comic trio to relish – fully fleshed-out characters who get their fun from playing others for their amusement.
Amy Clarke's Viola brings a freshness and vivacity that lights up the stage with every appearance, she radiates charm and innocence, yet with a wit and understanding beyond her years. This is most evident in her 'willow cabin' speech, which comes across as an inspired off-the-cuff reply in the face of being put on the spot by Emma Deegan's humanely lustful lady of the house Olivia. Her true feelings are hard to control, yet she maintains a masterly hold over her household and servants.
Alexander Gordon Wood's Malvolio is a force to be reckoned with. Physically commanding, he is contemptuous and distant to those beneath him, yet willing to 'overplay a part' when he mistakenly believes his mistress fancies him. There is some sympathy warranted here for him and Sir Andrew for they are indeed both “ill used” by lower members for their amusement.
This “improbable fiction” is well supported by other members of this 12-strong team, a company that not only “strive to please” the Greenwich audience every day but do so with relish!