Passionate excess

20th June 1997 at 01:00
TWELFTH NIGHT. Northern Stage Company, Newcastle Playhouse

The director of this production, Alan Lyddiard, cites Theatre de Complicite, the Russian Maly company and Baz Luhrmann's recent film of Romeo and Juliet as stylistic influences.

In place of Feste's less durable jokes there's visual clowning - Paul Hunter, playing Sir Toby, trained at the influential Lecoq mime school. In recent years there have been Twelfth Nights light and dark. This one is, says its director, "not truly dark - but deeply passionate".

The key comes in the second line - "Give me excess of it". "Passion here is very excessive; characters are really sad, excited, sexy."

In support, he notes only excess could lead Sir Andrew to imagine he could marry Olivia. Sir Toby and Maria will be very tactile - "they can't stop going for each other."

The production picks up Viola's words of longing for Orsino - "So desperate for my master's love". Viola is the character who expresses her feelings in soliloquies so Lyddiard is making her the bridge between play and audience. "The play really starts when Viola runs on with 'What country, friends, is this?' " Unlike Viola, says Lyddiard, Malvolio in his letter scene solo is not confiding in the audience. Northern Stage's Malvolio is "a total killjoy who suddenly is made an ass. He's the janitor, the taxman or traffic warden; it's fantastic to see him (and by proxy them) get their comeuppance. But his tormentors take their practical joke too far, treating him abominably."

We may not like Sir Toby very much by the end when this, "villain and loveable rogue gets Feste to sort problems out. And he treats Sir Andrew awfully. " It's not impossible, Lyddiard believes, to finish by being anti-Sir Toby and pro-Malvolio.

Meanwhile, at Orsino's we find a man's man, who, "like Newcastle lads on a Saturday night, likes being macho and believes a woman can't love like a man. It's his laddish 'men are important I can have a woman like that' which is offended by Olivia's refusal to fall at his feet. No wonder he's furious when he finds that she's marrying his servant."

June 21-July 12. Tickets: 0l9l 230 5151

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