Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
It looks like the cast of Hair have fallen in with a bad crowd and ended up gate-crashing an acid-fuelled orgy in a crumbling Ladbroke Grove pile circa 1969 at the start of Wils Wilson’s hippy-dippy take on what is arguably Shakespeare’s most gender-bending rom-com. Serenaded back to life by a passing rock star played by composer Meilyr Jones, the high-as-kites in-crowd discover a dressing-up box and a dog-eared copy of the bard’s yarn to entertain themselves lest they’re dragged back into the real world.
Such is the audacious backdrop for Wilson’s tripped-out gender-fluid production, which runs riot on designer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s psychedelic play-pen of sexual revolution, soundtracked by Jones’ mix of Carnaby Street baroque and hippy trail exotica. Joanne Thomson’s Sebastian and Jade Ogugua’s Viola are anything but washed up as they fall in with assorted movers and shakers led by Colette Dalal Tchantcho’s flamboyant Orsino. Christopher Green’s Malvolio is a bowler-hatted love-sick toady who dotes on Lisa Dwyer Hogg’s Olivia enough to let everything hang out in kinky yellow lycra.
In terms of hi-jacking Malvolio, Joanna Holden’s Maria calls the shots alongside Dawn Sievewright’s sensibly-shoed Lady Tobi, a female version of Toby Belch. With Guy Hughes’ nice-but-dim Aguecheek in tow, on the face of it they are merry pranksters taking the rise out of the stuffy old-school establishment Malvolio represents. But there is subversion there too, with Maria and Tobi a double act with possible knowledge of Valerie Solanas’ rad-fem manifesto. Dylan Read’s Feste, meanwhile, is seriously on the make in other ways.
There is a strung-out ennui for those locked out of the love-in in this co-production between the Lyceum and Bristol Old Vic. For those turned on and tuned in, however, a groovy kind of love awaits.
The Herald, September 20th 2018