Dan Jemmett after William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Eat a Crocodile
Royal Lyceum Theatre
It seems obligatory to have a weird foreign version of Shakespeare somewhere in the Edinburgh International Festival.
Strangely for a festival that can draw on and commission work from any company in the world, this take on Twelfth Night is 15 years old.
The usual measures of a wacky or modern look at a familiar play are their success in making one see or understand the original afresh and/or the pleasure that the piece generates in its own right.
So far is this supertitled, two-hour French presentation is concerned, there are so many excisions from Shakespeare’s text that few could score it highly on the first count.
That leaves Shake to live or die on entertainment value alone.
This is certainly an eccentric vision from director Dan Jemmett, set on a beach in front of five dilapidated huts. The cast consists of only five actors, four francophone and the last, Geoffrey Carey as Feste, North American.
That means no Maria while, as a novelty, Sir Andrew Aguecheek is literally a puppet in the hands of Vincent Berger’s Sir Toby Belch.
The Bard introduced doubling with Viola/Sebastian almost identical. He didn’t think of pairing Orsino and Malvolio, Antonio Gil Martinez challenged by doing so but getting some good wig laughs.
Like almost all of the aforementioned, Valérie Crouzet’s Olivia is a lady of extremes, a veritable drama queen. That leaves Delphine Cogniard playing the twins as the only straight man/woman on stage and doing the job well.
With much modern slapstick replacing Shakespeare’s poetic language and rich comedy, one fears that Shake is likely to be regarded as an eccentric light entertainment rather than an unforgettable tribute in the Bard’s anniversary year.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher