Edinburgh International Festival
August 11 to 13 7.30 pm August 12 and 13 2.30 pm.
This is a version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night performed largely in French with surtitles, with a cast of five and with a set consisting of beach huts.
I had hoped that this show would serve to shake up what so far has seemed a tame and conservative theatre strand in this year’s International Festival. The set was suggestive, maybe of M. Hulot, maybe of the play being Olivia’s dream as she is cast ashore.
To perform this play with only a cast of five is very demanding and the pairing of Orsino and Malvolio in the one person of Antonio di Martinez is a very clever idea which works very well, and it was late in the show before I, having arrived at the last minute owing to traffic and not having read the programme, became aware of the doubling. I have not seen Viola and Sebastian played by the same person, and I don’t think the final section is very engrossing if that is done.
The absence of certain characters is a loss. No Maria means quite a lot of fun and business disappears. The same goes for Andrew Aguecheek being a glove puppet in Belch’s hand. There is no manic chuckling of conspirators, in fact there are hardly conspirators. Then there are Feste’s execrable jokes, of which we hear far too many, including the “Doctor, doctor ” format, plus his explanation of Maria and his discussion of London pubs.
Much of the fun, the wild fun, of this play has been removed and what remains is not always funny. Reactions vary – the woman next to me left part way through, but a woman I spoke to immediately after the show was full of praise. Maybe a marmite production. Sadly, I came to feel it tedious and, while impressed by some of the acting, especially of Malvolio and Belch, I was not enthused.