TWELFTH NIGHT. Northern Broadsides
A big hint - do not refer to the "dark heart of the play" when talking about Twelfth Night with Barrie Rutter. Northern Broadsides' artistic director looks incredulous when I mention it.
"Dark heart? I bet you got that from some mid-European theatre guru.
"It is dark in places, but we're not emphasising the darkness. Twelfth Night is a mosaic of passions. The bitterest bit is the revenge on Malvolio - he's put in a dark cell."
Twelfth Night is a comedy of identity, in which the twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked on Illyria. They are separated and Viola dresses as a boy, taking the name Cesario. Orsinio, Duke of Illyria, is in love with the Countess Olivia, but she has vowed to mourn her brother. Passions shift, vows are broken and love, eventually, triumphs. Olivia has a haughty steward, Malvolio, who is duped by Sir Toby Belch and assorted comic characters.
"The dark cell is important," says Rutter. "We'll take our own on tour. It isn't a dog kennel like they used at Stratford, making a joke of it. It's a vicious attempt to drive him mad."
Rutter plays Malvolio. The cross-garters his character is tricked into wearing will look deliberately ridiculous. "Malvolio wears a kilt; therefore yellow stockings and cross garters will already be part of his uniform. It has to look ridiculous. Malvolio is being ridiculed."
There will be no cuts, no dropping of the character Fabian, as in the recent Sheffield Crucible production. Fabian is essential to the ridicule and he passes ironic comments.
"I will not have," Rutter snaps, "Orsino looking as if he might fall in love with Cesario the young boy. It's often done now and people say, oh isn't that interesting? But it's not."
Prepare to enjoy a delightful, bitter-sweet play presented with irrestible force.
Kevin Berry 'Twelfth Night' is at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, from January 28 to February 6. Then touring until May 22. Tel: 01422 369 704.