Beauty, wit and wisdom abound in Twelfth Night on Leamington stage

Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jeremy Haynes), Maria (Lorna Middleton) and Sir Toby Belch (Peter Daly-Dickson)
Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jeremy Haynes), Maria (Lorna Middleton) and Sir Toby Belch (Peter Daly-Dickson)

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Twelfth Night at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

The Loft’s version of Twelfth Night is a colourful rendition of Shakespeare’s tale of unrequited love, delivered in modern dress but without fancy gimmicks or pretensions. It is a show full of bold characters who speak their lines with obvious affection and respect.

One doesn’t go to see the play for the plot: one goes for the feeling. In Illyria, fantasy and reality become one, and when the two are finally separated we and the characters are left wiser and without regret.

Except for Malvolio. We feel for him as his self-delusion is exposed. He is perfectly characterised by Craig Shelton as a Stan Laurel figure, tragic in his willingness to be deceived, his famous yellow stockings and cross garters lurking beneath his dark suit and bowler. It is a beautiful performance.

Visually this production is stunning, the set and costumes full of strong colours, the direction generous and firm. The casting is good throughout. Peter Daly-Dickenson is distinctly untrustworthy as the roguish Sir Toby Belch, and Jeremy Heynes is a slightly forlorn if beautifully kilted Sir Andrew Aguecheek. These and other experienced actors draw the best from rising stars such as Elizabeth Champion, gorgeous as Olivia, and Beatrice Cranke as Viola / Cesario. Martin Cosgrif as the wise clown Feste might have been Shakespeare himself, holding up the mirror to our all too human vanity: his singing held the audience spellbound. Lorna Middleton is feisty as Maria, and Mark Roberts suitably lovelorn as Orsino.

All in all it is a beautifully imagined rendition that is modern without seeking to be controversial, and it brings a strong season at The Loft to a triumphant end.

* Twelfth Night runs until December 15. Visit www.lofttheatrecompany.com to book.