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BWW Reviews: TWELFTH NIGHT, St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, June 29 2015

With the welcome arrival of balmy summer evenings, Iris Theatre's Twelfth Night (continuing until 24 July) takes over St Paul's Church, Covent Garden for another outdoors promenade Shakespeare. After the harsh brutality of Richard III and Julius Caesar in recent years, Twelfth Night's cast of fools and lovers fits perfectly into the midsummer madness of a suddenly hot London.

Whilst the central plot of all that misplaced ardour is played out with wit and charm (Olivia Onyehara's Olivia is especially winning in lusting after Pepter Lunkuse's cross-dressed Viola), the big laughs are garnered by the three plotters. With some style, Robert Maskell, Henry Wyrley-Birch and Anne-Marie Piazza resurrect the spirit of the Carry-Ons - think Sid James, Charlie Hawtrey and Barbara Windsor - as Sir Toby, Aguecheek and Maria. Broad laughs are their reward - and why not?

For all the comic cuts, Twelfth Night's late punch in the solar plexus hurts more than ever this time. Tony Bell is iredeemably supercilious as Malvolio, and who could resist a little taunting - but does the punishment fit the crime? Locked in a dark cell at the side of the church as we enter the nave for the denouement with marital joy the lovers' bounty, the servant is a figure of some pity. So when he warns of revenge on those who humiliated and tortured him, it's hard not to shout out a bit of support - after all, which side would I have been on in 1789 and 1917?

And that's the Shakespearean pleasure in one - do we laugh at memories of the tomfoolery of Sid, Charlie, Babs and the gang or do we ponder the problem of the wealthy class's privilege and power over the waged class? Of course, you may do both, one, or neither - the theatrical feast before us can accommodate all that and plenty more. .


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