In the general scheme of things it shouldn’t seem that extraordinary that this was Phil’s first trip to The Globe, after all Andrew is still able to boast that his Les Misérables hymen remains chastely intact and probably always will be.
But an all-male chicks-with-dicks Twelfth Night with the starry combo of Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry proved too tempting a theatrical carrot in the slightly theme park-ish Globe. And there was added intrigue; Rylance was reprising his Olivia of 10 years ago while Fry was thesping on a stage again for the first time since he famously absconded from Cell Mates. All that and TN (with Richard III) will transfer for a run in the West End courtesy of Dame Sonia Friedman. A Globe first surely?
So to the Globe then (for Phil, anyway; Andrew was otherwise engaged). After (more or less) entering through the gift shop, picking up cushions for ageing buttocks (some are plumper than others – cushions that is not buttocks, though same rules might apply we suppose – so select carefully) on bench seating the happy report is that Tim Carroll’s straightforward and traditional production exorcises all memories of the Whingers’ last Twelfth staged lugubriously by Peter Hall last year. Phew!
Viola (Johnny Flynn) is shipwrecked and her twin brother Sebastian (Samuel Barnett – who might have made a more physically believable Viola) is missing presumed drowned by the noise of aircraft flying over the theatre. Cross cross-dressing, mistaken identities and the rather unpleasant bullying of a National Treasure ensue.
Stephen Fry initially plays
Stephen Fry Malvolio simmering on a low light before coming splendidly into his own in the famous letter and cross-gartered yellow stockings scenes, briefly knocking a few chinks in the fourth wall and earning himself rounds of applause on each exit. Yes, there was an awful lot of applauding going on throughout from this clappy, happy audience. Hopefully there will be less enthusiasm in the West End so it can be cut down from the 3 hours 10 mins running time. Cutting down the lengthy (albeit well-sung by Peter Hamilton Dyer‘s Feste) songs would also help.
It’s yer full-on, heavy duty Elizabethan schtick with knobs and brocade on; starchy white ruffs, hosiery and voluminous frocks and pants. It’s a photo-finish to see which of Rylance and Paul Chahidi’s superb Maria can get the biggest laughs from the manner in which they glide around in their costumes. Are they on casters? Are there teensy stagehands concealed beneath the frockery wheeling them about? Like Daleks you never see them going up or down stairs. Competition to see which can be the biggest scene-stealer is intense. One readily comes to believe they are women, in fact Phil’s disbelief couldn’t have been more suspended had it been hung from the gallows in Horsemonger Lane Gaol. Both are hilarious.
And so is Roger Lloyd Pack‘s Sir Andrew Aguecheek towering loftily over Colin Hurley‘s flatulent and nicely-played Sir Toby Belch. RLP’s height is used to great effect as they hide in the topiary watching Malvolio reading Maria’s cruel fake letter. Yes, biting hands as saying this, it appears again - despite Sir Peter’s efforts – Shakespeare’s comedies can sometimes be laugh-out-loud funny.
And on the subject of comedy, watch out for poor Mr Fry’s footwork in the joyously choreographed curtain call. Hopefully he’ll never step in time and they’ll big it up as a comedy feature in its own right.
The run is apparently sold out at the Globe so nice to see that tickets were available to the woman who kept up with the plot reading a synopsis on her iphone and the one who ate Kettle chips with a teddy bear dressed as a British copper sitting on her lap facing out to watch the play with her. Please tell us it’s not just us is it?