Tuesday, 16 October 2012

I, Malvolio - review

Written by: Wendy (@Wendyfer1)

Unicorn Theatre, London

‘I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you’ quoth Malvolio, several times during Tim Crouch’s one-man tribute to Twelfth Night’s pitiful puritan. There he stands, in a urine-stained onesie with plastic flies wiggling around his head, asking us why cruelty is just so damn entertaining. Tim Crouch plays with power and the theatrical contract to successfully leave us wondering why we laugh at other’s pain and humiliation and mark the bullies as innocent jesters. Here is a man planning to hang himself and we are giggling at his attempts to position the noose.

The fourth wall collapses and nobody mourns its loss. Latecomers were berated and forced to apologise, audience members were recruited to perform less than savoury tasks and he vowed to make us pay for our vile actions. What our actions were was not entirely clear, but we definitely deserved it. It is a supreme achievement to refer to your own audience directly as ‘f***ing useless’ without alienating them. We receive from Malvolio the same disdain as he gives to those who humiliated him: the vindictive Sir Toby Belch and Maria. In fact, he likens us to them in our disrespect for morality.

Shakespeare’s character is the perfect champion for victims of petty jokes. Crouch lays bare the hypocrisy of Malvolio’s situation. Imprisoned for the crime only of being in love, he is called mad while the principal characters engage in rash and unjustified plot twists. Language from Twelfth Night is incorporated both bluntly and subtly; Crouch has an incredible talent for wording. He handles vocal and rhythmic variation with delicacy and his delivery is like an instrument freed from metronomes and tuning forks. Only the artist’s highly skilled ear dictates the performance – there is nothing artificial.

The revenge on the whole pack of us that ended the play was delightful and cheeky. When done well, playing with an audience’s expectations instils a childish joy. Some of the interaction is not kind, but it is never traumatic. For once not feeling too safe in a theatre is refreshing. It keeps you awake.

I, Malvolio is one show in a series themed around Shakespearean characters that must watch the action from the sidelines. A truly original concept delivered by a highly respectable writer and actor. This show will continue touring after its stint at The Unicorn. If you like Shakespeare, if you’ve ever felt humiliated, if you’ve ever wondered just how obscene a onesie can be, please go and see it.

This production runs until 11 November 2012. 
For more information: http://unicorntheatre.com/i-malvolio

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Anonymous said...

Brilliant blog! Really gave an insight to the production and expresses your thoughts well! This is more like it!

Wendy said...

Thankyou very much! Feedback is always appreciated. Apologies for the late response, I replied a few weeks ago but it seems there was a technical error.