sun 25/07/2021

Twelfth Night, Liverpool Everyman | reviews, news & interviews

Twelfth Night, Liverpool Everyman

Twelfth Night, Liverpool Everyman

Rebuilt theatre kicks off with a worthy Shakespeare production

Sweet revenge: Matthew Kelly as Sir Toby Belch in Liverpool `Twelfth Night'Stephen Vaughan

A collective shiver went round the arts community of Merseyside when the Liverpool Everyman announced that it was to be razed to the ground before rising again from the ashes like the theatrical phoenix of the region. And now, a little more than two years after the original theatre closed amidst much breast-beating, the Everyman is back, and with a spanking new production of Twelfth Night that constitutes a national event.

The new theatre is light, airy, and accessible, and a massive asset to the creative hub that is Hope Street. And Gemma Bodinetz's way with Shakespeare's timeless comedy of twinning is highly accomplished, as well.

Bodinetz's staging aims to link the past with the present, bringing in actors who were Everyman veterans - Matthew Kelly, for instance, who plays Sir Toby Belch - while showing off the new space to maximum advantage. That is achieved in design terms by a minimal set from Laura Hopkins that works on the viewer's imagination, as Shakespeare surely intended. The costumes are modern, sometimes over the top - Feste's high heels, for instance. And any plummy RADA tones have been abandoned in favour of regional and local accents, as if to remind us that the Everyman is a place for the people in addition to having helped launch the careers of Julie Walters, Alison Steadman, and Kelly himself, to name but a few.

The production takes its cue from the text's repeated "if"s  (as in Orsino's lovesick gambit at the start, "if music be the food of love"). And trumpeted in the promotional material with the words "play on!", the injunction from Orsino that follows next, the staging celebrates all that is good about the Everyman, a 400-seater that sits at the epicentre of the city's vibrant and rapidly expanding cultural quarter on the street linking the mighty Anglican Cathedral with the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Catherdal. Philharmonic Hall is just nearby, too. 

Jodie McNee and Adam Levy as Viola and OrsinoAs it happens, Twelfth Night is an appropriate play for a celebration in its story of twins shipwrecked and rent asunder only to find one another in the course of a triumphant commingling of lost souls and misplaced affections. Bodinetz locates the dark undertow to the play - a soul-searching just this side of tragedy - while allowing for precision-perfect slapstick comedy and the ridiculous, laugh-out-loud trio of Kelly's Sir Toby, Paul Duckworth's Feste. and Adam Keast's Sir Andrew Aguecheek.   

There is the odd surprise: what looks at first like a broken mirror is in fact a pool of water out of which emerge Jodie McNee's purposefully androgynous Viola and Nicholas Woodeson's Malvolio, the two interrupting that celebrated opener, spoken here by Adam Levy as Orsino. (He and McNee are pictured above.) One national paper said that the Everyman, with its sister theatre the Liverpool Playhouse, could be on the verge of recreating the glory days of the 1960s and '70s. This production sets the towering duo on the way to doing just that.

The director Gemma Bodinetz locates the dark undertow to the play while allowing for precision-perfect slapstick comedy


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Just for information, it was Paul Duckworth's Feste that emerges out of water with Jodie McNee at the start of the play, setting him up to play the fool in Illyria with her knowledge. Mavolio would have told a whole different story.

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