On the twelfth night of lockdown the NT gave to me… a screening of Twelfth Night for freeee.
Currently available for free on YouTube, Shakespeare’s gender-bending romcom is well-suited to the modern day – perhaps even more so than in the Bard’s day, when the all-male casts would have added another layer of confusion to the cross-dressing comedy. The gender-swapping of Malvolia (Tamsin Greig) introduces a lesbian character to proceedings, modernising the camp inherent in the play; there’s even a scene set at a drag bar.
Naturally Greig nails the comedy of the role but brings a level of tragedy and torment to Malvolio I’ve not seen in previous adaptations. She’s reunited with Green Wing‘s Oliver Chris as Duke Orsino, alongside entertaining turns from Tamara Lawrance’s Viola and Phoebe Fox’s Olivia. Their love triangle is reflected in the pyramid-structured staging, comprising a set of folding stairs, a working fountain and a small pool.
As seems the current fashion in the Avon laddie’s revivals, the Shakespearean is supplemented by modern references, songs and stylistic choices; the sleek, chic design and jazzy music suggests Illyria as a kind of bougie coastal resort, a hedonistic playground of deception, drunken pranks and mistaken identities – perfect for those whose holidays have been cancelled or have simply run out of booze.