Review: Twelfth Night, Minerva Theatre, Chichester

There couldn’t be a better time to stage this Shakespearean comedy classic.

Review. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150912-143636001
Review. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150912-143636001

It was a conceit designed to close the Christmas season.

Like so many of the Bard’s comedies, confusion over who is who lies at the heart of the plot.

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In this case, it is twins separated in a shipwreck and all the romantic mayhem when one of them - Viola - comes ashore and disguises herself as a man.

Shakespeare was never afraid to prick the pomposity of his most outrageous characters with humour which was as sharp as it was cruel.

Malvolio is the humbug in Twelfth Night who is deceived into believing that Olivia has fallen for him. It culminates in the classic Shakespeare scene where he dresses in cross-gartered yellow stockings with a smile plastered on his face. Tom Chapman carries the scene with joyful ease.

Flute Theatre bring a real beauty to what in so many ways in a fairly bawdy comedy. They slip effortless between roles, compressing the script and interspersing it with musical interludes which are as evocative as they are tonal.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, this is a less easy version to follow than one performed more slowly and in full costume.

But there is a tender earthiness too which seems to cut through and deliver something much more in keeping with Shakespeare’s intent.