A new wind has blown into Perth, just as it does in Shakespeare's
Illyria. That's the accidental message anyway during the opening storm
scene of the theatre's incoming artistic director Rachel O'Riordan's
debut in-house production. Because, in something usually played as a
knockabout rom-com, Riordan sets out her store from the start by
blowing away such surface froth to reveal near-Chekhovian depths.
Much of this stems from an update to a post World War One Scotland in a
crumbling petrol-blue house where a baby grand piano sits at the top of
an elaborate staircase. Here Conor Mitchell's Curio sips cocktails
while whipping up a jaunty Palm Court style soundtrack with violinist
and fellow gent Valentine. That's about as fizzy as things get,
however, as all involved wander about in a kind of shell-shocked limbo,
trying to re-connect with some sense of purpose.
Samara MacLaren's brittle, flapper-like Olivia and Martin Ledwith's
brooding Orsino are so wrapped up in themselves they don't even notice
that Laura O'Toole's exiled Viola is masquerading as a man. Even Steven
McNicoll's de-mob happy Toby Belch crashes around with a wounded anger,
his late-night roustabouts with John Paul Hurley's Aguecheek and
teasing of Tom Marshall's pompous Malvolio positively pathological.
Andy Hockley's Feste, meanwhile, sporting fez, waist-coat and white
beard, looks like an over-grown monkey who's lost his organ-grinder.
By mixing up Scots, Irish and Welsh accents, Riordan's reading suggests
a fractured set of countries, each one isolated by their losses. Only
when Viola finds her twin Sebastian does any kind of unity occur. Even
then, Feste's final song is a solitary lament, both for his lot and the
times he lives in.
The Herald, October 3rd 2011