Wales Theatre Company
Grand Theatre, Swansea, and touring
Of the three plays presented by this excellent company this week I would say that this production is head and shoulders above the rest.
Here we saw much evidence that this company has strength in depth which allows them the luxury of spreading the leading roles through the group for the three plays.
Michael Bogdanov set the play in the nineteen twenties, a nice idea, with the jazzy musical background providing the right atmosphere for the sparkling wit and sharp pace of the piece.
Now having seen all three plays I must congratulate the set designers, Sean Crowley and Edward Thomas, for designing a set that adapted beautifully to the trilogy.
Paul Greenwood's Malvolio was superb. He squeezed every ounce of comedy out of the cross-gartered scene, demonstrating a much richer dimension to his acting than he was able to show in the other plays. I wasn't sure about letting him have the final word in the play where we see him transformed into a much darker character. (One of Michael Bogdanov's hidden bullets?) They say that if you let comedy take its natural course it becomes tragedy. Maybe that was the point. Malvolio has certainly enough reason to wreak terrible revenge on the lot of them.
The strong vein of comedy that runs through this timeless play was expertly tapped by John Labanowski's Sir Toby and Frank Vickery's Sir Andrew and strongly supported by Bill Wallis who played Feste the clown like a charming old sop.
Nicki Rainsford presents a somewhat mature, regal Olivia which works marvellously as she crumbles to her obsession with the youthful Viola, played by Heledd Baskerville, who is always interesting to watch. She has a vibrant energy which gave us a charmingly sparky Viola.
I feel that the character of Maria always looks best when dressed as an Elizabethan wench, but that's just my preference. As it is, in this production, she is well covered in black, but fortunately Kathryn Dimery possesses enough sensuality to overcome this.
During the past week I feel I have been intellectually toned up and wonderfully entertained by this excellent company. Well done the National Assembly and the Art Council for supporting this venture and the Grand Theatre for its considerable help.
Reviewer: Tony Layton