Friday, 12 August 2016

Shake

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Four stars

Life can initially appear terribly tame in Dan Jemmett's end of the pier reimagining of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, performed in French with English surtitles by Jemmett's Eat A Crocodile company. It opens on Illyria's hut-lined beach-front where Viola has just been washed up without her missing presumed drowned brother Sebastian. After an opening plea to the audience, she's soon flattening her hair and donning vintage tweed to become Duke Orsino's houseboy Cesario.

Wigs, hats, comedy glasses and joke shop teeth are well to the fore in a show where Sir Toby Belch is a tartan-suited comic turn who carries a ventriloquist's dummy version of Aguecheek around in a suitcase. Orsino is a smoking-jacketed crooner, who takes the play's 'If music be the food of love' speech to new heights as he gets Feste to play a selection of charity shop classics on a portable turntable in a way that more recalls Noel Coward's line in Private Lives about the potency of cheap music. Object of their affections Olivia is a big-haired fantasy starlet and Malvolio a creepy Thunderbirds villain lookalike. A dispassionate Feste, meanwhile, cracks bad gags in English with a deadpan delivery that borders on loucheness.

In appearance, at least, the whole thing resembles the sort of retro-styled cheese-fest designed for post-millennial loungecore clubs. Having one of just five performers play both Viola and Sebastian takes the cross-dressing to new heights in the romantic reconciliation scenes, where s/he gets to have his/her inter-gender flavoured cake and eat it, quite possibly with tongues. In delivery, however, a languid pace invests things with the exquisitely tragicomic melancholy of out of season vaudevillians playing to a half empty house.

The Herald, August 12th 2016

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