Twelfth Night at the Everyman

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It’s a while since we’ve been to see a production at the Liverpool Everyman theatre. For the last two years it would have been difficult as the buidling has been completely demolished and rebuilt. It reopened a few weeks ago and the first play was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The run finished on 5th April but we managed to catch it a few weeks ago. And very good it was too.

An excellent production with some outstanding performances. Mathew Kelly as ‘Toby Belch’ was extremely good as was Nick Woodeson as “Malvolio”, Adam Keast as the pompous as “Sir Andrew Aguecheek” and Paul Duckworth whose performance as “Feste” reminded me of Lilly Savage. But the cast as a whole were very good.

I wasn’t familiar with the story of Twelfth Night – my study of Shakespeare at school concentrated on tragedies and history plays, except for Midsummer. Night’s Dream we didn’t study any of the comedies. Janice knew the play but I told her not to tell me anything so I could experience it afresh. And. I enjoyed it very much. The beginning was little contrived. I couldn’t understand why Viola wanted to dress as a man. But that didn’t really matter. It was a device.

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The production was excellent right from the beginning with Viola and the Sea. Captain appearing on stage through a pool of water. A very dramatic entrance. The main comedy scenes were extremely well done. They were funny. Slapstick, with excellent timing by the team of actors. And some improvisation too. At one point they brought out a trolley of cakes and jellies and started dishing them out to the front row. They also involved one of the ushers in the scene who ended up with a custard pie in her face (I spoke to her at the interval and she told me she wasn’t expecting that). The improvisation occurred when one of the audience put a couple of empty jelly cases back onto the trolley. Suddenly the actor playing Malvonio (well known TV actor Nick Woodeson) pointed at him and shouted "leave those jellies alone" and the other members of the cast then played along. Excellent!

After the applause at the end the cast came back on and started to dance around the stage in a choreographed routine with the audience all joining in by clapping along. This routine lasted for several minutes and finished with balloons and party streamers descending from the ceiling. Then it all ended. No one actor singled out for particular applause as is usually the case, but a recognition that this was an ensemble piece. Very democratic and very right too.

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