Tuesday, July 16

Twelfth Night – Stafford Gatehouse

For those of you not around for the premiere in 1601 you missed a belter. The Bard’s buoyant and feisty tale of shipwrecked twins rent asunder amidst a fearsome tempest (not to be confused with the other Tempest by the same writer) to be finally washed up on the shores of the lyrical land of Illyria has held audiences enthralled for decades and, if this production is anything to go by, will for many more. Music is, indeed, the food of love in this sparkling new production at the Stafford Gatehouse it’s a fulsome menu of tasty titbits served by kitchen full of Michelin-starred chefs.

Sean Turner’s unique interpretation of the play fizzes with invention, joy and bright new ideas – though relocating the play to a Cornish fishing village in 1958 does strip it of its usual pastoral idyll it certainly refreshes our view and allows for a slew* of hearty sea-shanties. The cast deploy every ounce of Shakespearean wit, love and fun with expertise and aplomb leaving the audience cheering, and, at the end, invited to cross the threshold of the forth-wall and join the characters for jolly jig in Illyria. It’s not often Shakespeare gets a standing ovation, but this did.

Seann Walsh more than hold his own as Malvolio, Molly Windsor trips lightly through the role of Viola and Natalie Anderson is a flirtatious and sassy Olivia. Panto veteran Bob Golding brings charm and clarity to his Belch (not a line I ever thought I’d write) and taps the text for every laugh he can. His double act with Callum Sim’s Aguecheek is a delight throughout. All rattle merrily through a plot of preposterous mistaken identities and improbably love-triangles against the background of Alfie Heywood’s sumptuous and evocative set where you can almost smell the haddock trawl.

It’s all played at a cracking pace so we’re all suitably entertained and in the pub by 1015. Keeping the whole piece together and popping up in minor roles are “The Evolution of Fishermen” (surely Fisher-people these days?) in the guise of Lucinda Freeburn, Sam Lightfoot-Loftus, Loris Scarpa who present a joyous selection of folk music, airs, shanties and, oddly, a Buddy Holly number which provide the sorbet between courses.

It’s a satisfying and sumptuous menu of tasty treats providing a recipe for success!

Playing until 7th July, www.gatehousetheatre.co.uk

* I believe slew is the correct group noun for sea-shanties…

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 27th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.