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Review: Twelfth Night/Liverpool Everyman

Lew Baxter enjoys a worthy curtain raiser to the next 10,000 years

Written by . Published on March 13th 2014.

Review: Twelfth Night/Liverpool Everyman

AND so, make haste for we do disembark for the land of Illryia where the course of true love never did run smooth. 

And there’s yet a fair amount of toil and trouble, as this lively take on Shakespeare’s burlesque romp reveals only too well, in the opening play of the new Everyman’s first season. 

Pauline Daniels tackles her first Shakespeare
with a joyous gusto, delivering Lady Olivia’s waggish lady-in-waiting as a fetching composite
of Elsie Tanner, Thora Hird and Beryl Reid with a smattering of Widow Twanky

Much like football in Liverpool, this is a production of two halves, two shows, in fact: one theatrical and upbeat, the other personal and tending towards the lachrymose for some who pondered, perhaps lamented (over a refreshing pinot grigio or three) the passing of their youth spent in hedonistic tempest in a building now transformed purposefully, yet, in truth, splendidly, for generations yet to fall in thrall to the thrill of live performance. 

Naturally, there was an air of jaunty expectation, perhaps even scepticism, amongst the audience shuffling about the foyers (yes, there are several levels) as their beloved theatre, mightily endowed with a glittering legacy, now shimmered in its latest voguish incarnation; the stylish ambience enhanced by a subdued, smoky kind of lighting and ‘low key’ decor. 

Alan Stocks %28Fabian%29, Adam Keast %28Andrew Aguecheek%29, Matthew Kelly %28Toby Belch%29 In Twelfth Night %26#169%3BStephenvaughanAlan Stocks, Adam Keast and Matthew Kelly

To be sure, there must also have been a distinct jangling of nerves amongst those who have adapted the sepulchre of past thespian glories for an age perhaps inclined to count beans and acquire a master of business administration rather than disregard hours expended in joyous contemplation of bliss and loafing. The ‘Ev’ and the ‘Bistro’ were of an era that has slipped quietly into the mists.

So, first things first: this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the Everyman of memory whose latter day shabby chic imbued it with an air of anarchic elegance.

This is a modern theatre for the 21st century and is indisputably the ‘new’ Everyman that will surely acquire an identity and resonance of its own. Long Live the Old Everyman! Ten Thousand Years to the New Everyman! 

The auditorium and performance area are both terrific and director Gemma Bodinetz makes great use of what seems like a huge space – compared to its somewhat cramped predecessor - to allow the pace of this knockabout full rein, with even on occasions a battered old tandem bike taken for a spin about the stage. 

To the play itself then: Bodinetz has assembled what can only be labelled a multifarious and engaging cast who present an enthusiastic, if, at times, particularly singular rendering of the work that was surely the template for the fabled Brian Rix farces of the 1960s. The sparse-but-inventive set here allows for much ducking and weaving so key to the pace. 

Jodie Mcnee As Viola, Natalie Dew As Olivia %26#38%3B Luke Jerdy As Sebastian In Twelfth Night %26#169%3B Stephen_VaughanJodie McNee, Natalie Dew and Luke Jerdy 

It is essentially close to the original text with additional homespun ‘Scouseified’ elements that incorporate a splendidly spirited Paul Duckworth as Feste, the main clown of the piece, but whose arch camping about – in the vein of Lily Savage crossed with Boy George - some might find ultimately a tad irksome; and yet if scouse is on the menu no point cutting out the lamb shanks, so to speak. 

Matthew Kelly - one of the old Everyman troupers of the 1970s – is actually most entertaining, even charming, as Sir Toby Belch as he cavorts and ambles around in sybaritic fashion, almost avuncular yet fey, whilst his pal Sir Andrew Aguecheek – played with zest by veteran rock n roll panto dame Adam Keast – disports another exaggerated effete nature; perhaps underlining a keynote of this effort. 

Birkenhead-born actress and comedienne Pauline Daniels (main pic, top) – who has chalked up accolades in Brookside and as a scintillating Shirley Valentine at the Royal Court under the directorial baton of another old Everyman stalwart, Glen Walford - tackles her first Shakespeare with a joyous gusto, delivering Lady Olivia’s waggish lady-in-waiting as a quite fetching composite of Coronation Street’s Elsie Tanner, Thora Hird and Beryl Reid with a smattering of Widow Twanky. No offence; it was corking stuff. 

Nicholas Woodeson%28Malvolio%29,Alan Stocks%28Fabian%29,Adam Keast%28Andrew Aguecheek%29,Matthew Kelly%28Toby Belch%29%26#169%3BStephenvaughanNicholas Woodeson, Alan Stocks, Adam Keast and Matthew Kelly

It would seem that another old ‘Ev’ hand, Nicholas Woodeson as Malvolio, the semi-tragic character of the piece, who disports the demeanour of a bumptious and sullen, yet emotionally fractured, accountant discovers that matters of the heart can be somewhat flighty and he’s best sticking to haughty disdain, although this role needed an element of melancholy to provide ballast. 

It is broadly most diverting and entertaining – if a trifle long in duration, as the dawn chorus was surely wetting its whistles as the audience filed out. All the performers, particularly the hardworking Jodie McNee as Viola and Cesario, deserve herograms in their own right; but space denies them their place in the annals. 

This may not maybe set the heather ablaze in many foreign fields but is a worthy curtain up to what will be the undoubtedly extensive, and expansive, term of the New Everyman.


*Twelfth Night runs until March 29.

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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Reader Xxx

The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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