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Twelfth Night

This is a great year for anniversaries. The Hull Truck Company, the Royal Exchange Theatre, and now Cheek by Jowl is celebrating its 25th Anniversary...

Published on May 24th 2006.

Twelfth Night
By William ShakespeareChekhov International Theatre Festival inassociation with Cheek by Jowl

This is a great year for anniversaries. The Hull Truck Company, the Royal Exchange Theatre, and now Cheek by Jowl is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. This latter company has been applauded across five continents for its groundbreaking productions of British and European classics. Salford now has the opportunity to see the internationally celebrated all male production of this play, with a cast of Russian actors performing the comedy in Russian. Not a language in common currency in Trafford Park.

Shipwrecked in Illyria, Viola presumes her twin brother, Sebastian, is dead and in order to survive assumes the guise of a man to gain employment with the Governor, Orsino. In a maze of conflicting interests Shakespeare weaves a complex and comic story of love, loss and lunacy.

Many critics see this gentle melancholic comedy as being filled with rich Chekhovian texture. This may be part of the reason why Declan Donnellan seized on the opportunity to direct the play. There is additional local interest in that Donnellan is a Manchester born London Irishman.

What a brilliant, astonishing surprise. I have always known that Shakespeare was for all people everywhere, but had gratuitously assumed that his plays were best performed by the English, who after all, understood every nuance.

Wrong, I was wrong, totally wrong. In a joyous, marvellous evening this all Russian cast managed to eke out comedic parts of this lyrical, poetic and musical play which cast new insights to a work, even as well known as this.

Much of the action was hilarious. After the interval I stopped looking at the subtitles almost completely. I know nothing of the Russian language. I was carried along by the actors on stage. The laughter quotient increased exponentially. You did not want it to end.

Unique is a word one must only use occasionally. It applies (in buckets) to the directing talents of Declan Donellan. Innovative, creative, bold, almost foolhardy, he provides two and a half hours of sheer delight, whilst extracting stellar performances from this superb company.

Special mention to Andrey Kuzichev for his perfect rendering of Viola, to Alexander Feklistov for his boisterous, hilarious Sir Toby Belch and perhaps the best of all Alexey Dadonov as a quite marvellous Olivia. The ensemble was without a weakness.

Shakespeare makes substantial demands on the theatregoer. To perform an all male production, totally in Russian is a step of faith. To then, bring it to Salford on a wet, windy Tuesday and completely win over an audience with no knowledge of Russian vocabulary quite miraculous.

It is only at the Lowry till Saturday night, before, (after a short tour) it puts down its roots at the Barbican for its London run. No serious Shakespeare enthusiast should let the next four days go by without a visit. Wonderful stuff.

By the way, the musical arrangements alone are worth the visit, but just go and experience it for yourself.

Richard Burbage
Email Me

May 2006
At The Lowry
Until Saturday 27th May 2006
Box Office 0870 787 5790

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