Review – Twelfth Night – Donmar at Wyndham’s Theatre


I admit, I was slow on the uptake with the Donmar Warehouse’s Twelfth Night (part of their season at Wyndham’s). It opened December 5th, and the WestEnd Whingers saw it not more than a week later. And here it is February, and the show closes March 7th … and I only bought my tickets in January to see it February, despite the Whingers’ effusive praise (key elements of their review for me: actually funny; not overly long running time – vital for a possible weeknight trip to the West End). And yet … well, finances, you know.

And a review. I feel … hesitant. The show’s got two more weeks, and if I’m not mistaken it’s about sold out for the run. So what is there to say, really, and who will it influence? The ten or so people behind me who had standing seats (way up in the balcony behind me – what were they thinking?) and the 20 or so folks who’d been standing in line waiting for returns could clearly never be swayed by anything I have to say here. So it seems a bit pointless to add my comments to what must be the great heaps of praise this production has been wallowing in.

Except … I’m not going to. And you know why? Because the Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw last week at the Southwark Playhouse smoked this production’s ass. Maybe it’s because Derek Jacobi (as Malvolio) and company have been doing this show for so many weeks that they’ve just lost their excitement. I can’t really fault the production values: the costumes were lovely (Indira Varma as Olivia was especially ravishing) and I liked the simple set (nice work on both, Christopher Oram), but I can say that this script just isn’t of the quality that Midsummer is, and there’s not much you can do with that. And yet a tale of lovers split by warring fairies is surely no more ridiculous than that a brother and sister can so successfully pass for each other that they woo each other’s lovers?

No, no, that’s not it. What it comes down to is that Southwark Playhouse made theatrical magic happen, and the crew at Wyndham’s only put on a play – they provided an evening’s forgettable (if quality) entertainment. I suppose this is what happens when you see a show so late, when the actors are less excited about doing the show – maybe even now Imelda Staunton’s Kath is no longer making the punters howl in their seats, but I’m convinced the final weekend of Midsummer will be so much more exciting that 12th Night was at this point in time. So cry not if you haven’t got seats for the Wyndham’s Twelfth Night and take yourself instead to the south side of the river, where I promise you that the folks at the Southwark will deliver a memorable theatrical experience that will leave you enthused about the bard.

My other complaint about this show: can we please do a Shakespearean comedy where people don’t have to illustrate sexual humor by making crude fucking gestures? I’m able to work it out from the words alone, thanks, I don’t need to see characters mock-humping the air and pretending to fondle themselves.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, February 21st, 2008. It’s nice to know that since this is a review about a professional company that for once the miffed actors and incensed relatives will not be slagging me off for not forcing a bunch of ass kissing in my writeup.)


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5 Responses to “Review – Twelfth Night – Donmar at Wyndham’s Theatre”

  1. Exit, pursued by a bear Says:

    “It’s nice to know that since this is a review about a professional company that for once the miffed actors and incensed relatives will not be slagging me off for not forcing a bunch of ass kissing in my writeup”

    LOL WCG – I haven’t laughed so much all weekend!

  2. Cassa Pancho Says:

    Hello, Webcowgirl,

    Oh dear, what a lot of unpleasant messages you receive. I had come across your review of Ballet Black in April last year, and although it wasn’t the most thrilling thing I’ve read about my company, it is, as you say, your opinion. I was disappointed with those people connected to BB who replied, but should like to add that I do not know anyone by the name of Belinda – nor do I think she is a relative of mine! (I say mine as I am the only constant member of BB – dancers and choreographers change often – perhaps this Belinda is a cunning pseudonym for a member of BB – if so the culprit shall be rooted out!). As for vitriol, I suspect that anyone who publishes an opinion gets it but a critic from The Times/Independent/Guardian etc may have filters in place that stop the nastier stuff getting through.

  3. Jerome Joseph Kennedy Says:

    I agree with most of what you’ve said, I saw it last week and found it distinctly uninspired and forgettable. Not near the best Twelfth Night I’ve seen (though, performance-wise, Jacobi and Ron Cook were fautless) certainly not bearing any relation to a show that garners five stars from every critic going…

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    […] attic, with low ceilings, uneven floors, and bizarrely configured seats. What a difference from the Wyndham’s Theatre, where my upper balcony £10 seat had gorgeously unrestricted sightlines! I felt being sold this […]

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