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Mary Couzens of EXTRA! EXTRA!

Malvolio and His Masters at Southwark Playhouse

This enjoyable production centres on one of the central characters from Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, Mavolio, whose arrogance belies his lowly position as a mere servant.


Sir Toby Belch (Jack Knaff) and Sir Andrew Augecheek (Al Weaver) [courtesy New Fortune Theatre]


By eliminating the romances typically featured in the play, a stronger sense of what this character is all about becomes possible, and, the results are highly comic.

Sir Toby Belch, (Jack Klaff) and his youthful sidekick, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Al Weaver) love the idea of playing tricks on people. Both actors add considerably to the hilarity, not only with what they say, and, how they say it, but also with their body language and accompanying facial expressions. As they deliberate over some of the many recreational options open to them, such as fencing, dancing and bearbaiting, the fool, ably played by ever-reliable Matthew Field seems to have a saying for every situation. For, in his opinion, it is 'better to be a witty fool than a foolish wit.' However, Maria, (Karen Archer), maid to Olivia, (Emma Fildes), believes in putting her tricky plans into action, so she lures Sirs Toby and Andrew into collaborating with her on a scheme to bring lofty servant, Malvolio, hilariously played by Edward Clarke, down from his self-imposed plinth.

As with Open Shakespeare's companion production in their season, Hamlet the Outsider, director John Russell Brown keeps the action flowing along in this concentrated, (one hour), but satisfying production. Minimal stage props, designed by Alice Hoult, provide just enough to hint at larger settings, without detracting from the largely, fast-paced proceedings. However, Edward Clarke's memorable performance as the snobby servant, would, in itself, make it well worth going to Southwark Playhouse to see Open Shakespeare's Malvolio and His Masters.

• in rep with Hamlet the Outsider until 10 June

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