Dark sadistic subplot dominates

Twelfth Night or What You Will by William Shakespeare in the gardens at Arundel Castle. Directed by Michael Woodwood

EVEN in Shakespeare’s frothiest comedies such as this, there is a dark, sadistic streak to be detected.

For all the fun of romance and mistaken identity which is the hallmark of so much of the bard’s lighter works, the real black comedy is derived from the treatment of Malvolio - the Lady Olivia’s pompous head steward.

Having convinced Malvolio through a forged letter that Olivia is in love with him he is encouraged to dress in the brightest yellow stockings and smile in such a grotesque manner that he is cast aside as utterly deranged.

Never was a revenge on one poor servant so utterly comprehensive.

But the truth is, this subplot comes to dominate the whole play, and Chris Porter’s formidable and mesmerising portrayal of Malvolio will ensure that once again GB Theatre Company’s production is as memorable as it is hilariously entertaining. Chris’s was a visual rendition worthy of Rowan Atkinson at his best.

I have gone on record at previous Arundel Festival’s saying that GB has reinvigorated Shakespeare’s works like no other modern touring company. Everything in this production confirmed that view.

Shakespeare had the knack of timelessly repackaging a range of plot devices to create one great comedy after another.

GB has the skill to discern the visual comedy and extract it from the dialogue - ensuring that even those who considered Shakespeare a dusty postscript in the literary archive are awakened to the enormous fun that his writing contains.

David Davies is the company manager but also, as ever, brings enormous energy and vitality to the whole proceedings.

In this great pursuit he is most ably supported by the likes of Oliver Cudbill, Suzannah Hampton, Philip Scott-Wallace, Lucy Wray, Mark Carlisle, and Sioned Jones. Special praise for stage manager Martin Hutchinson who stepped so worthily into the role of Sir Andrew Aguecheek following illness within the company.

The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk continue to keep the central flame of the Arundel Festival burning bright by inviting this company to the Collector Earl’s Gardens at the Castle. It is to be hoped they will return again in 2012.

Gary Shipton