Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, 28/8/2010
(Note to self; you enjoy Cambridge Shakespeare Festival productions, Philip, so you really should get to them earlier in the year. The last night of the last performance looks like brinkmanship. Fortunately, the weather held, this time.)
And it's back to Robinson College gardens for another comedy - more unambiguously comic than last year's, mind. It's still a nice venue for theatre on a nice evening, although this production doesn't seem quite to have got the hang of working with the space - lines were getting lost in the shrubbery, cast members were trying to interact from too far apart. Still, mostly, they were pretty good. Mind you, I've seen some not-very-similar Violas and Sebastians in my time, but these two really were exceptional - about a foot apart in height, and with no other similarities. Hey ho, accept the theatrical convention.
The director's line here seemed to be that Illyria is almost entirely inhabited by foppish loons - not just Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, Duke Orsino is pretty much as bad. This explains why Olivia isn't very interested in him - she's trying to be a sensible person and is still genuinely in mourning, but none of the aristocratic layabouts around her will be sensible - and why she falls so promptly for Viola/Cesario, who acts moderately seriously as well as being quite charismatic. (This Olivia then flips over into a state of girlish lust, abandoning black like a shot now she's got someone she can be cheerful rather than silly with, but then throwing herself very energetically at the object of her affections, which must be nice for Sebastian when she grabs him but doesn't look very consistent.) However, this then leaves a problem of explaining why the smart Viola should fall for the goofy Orsino... I know, she just does, okay? It's a Shakespeare comedy.
And, to be fair, quite funny in this production - notoriously not always the way with Shakespeare comedies, and not just because of Malvolio's character story (marginalised at the end in a faintly embarrassed way here). The Shakespeare Festival continues to make Shakespeare productions that are worth going to see. Must try to get to it more efficiently next year.