A rather sluggish start and some first-night nerves only took a little away from this fine production of Twelfth Night.
Once the story got going we were royally entertained by some very good individual performances.
Marc Griffiths as Orsino, the would-be suitor of Olivia (Helen Watson), spoke his lines with such clarity and expression it made me wonder why anyone would say that they can't understand Shakespeare. His performance was complemented by Lorna Gemmell's portrayal of Viola, disguising herself as his manservant Cesario - again fine diction and a clear understanding of the role, illustrated by her obvious frustration (for different reasons) with her master and Olivia.
Olivia's confusion over Cesario's true gender and her annoyance at Orsino's pestering are not her only worries. She has what would now be called a dysfunctional household. She employs Feste, a professional fool, played with great wit by Ray Atkinson, who clearly relished the opportunity to entertain us with his musical skill. But she also has two other unpaid fools to deal with - namely Sir Toby Belch and his 'friend' (until his money runs out) Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Sir Andrew was played by the magnificently coiffured Heward Simpson as a delightfully ill-coordinated nitwit. Instead of the rather hackneyed posh fat slob, in this production the directors cast Sir Toby as a thin, smart and sharp master of the revels, the part played vigourously, precisely and very, very entertainingly by Ian Nutt.
Maria, Olivia's maidservant was played with guile and cunning by Kate Groves - a nice performance but I felt a little restricted as I always see Maria as a saucy minx (but perhaps that says more about me). Grace Lothian, as Fabian, struck just the right conspiritorial note.
It would have been a sad soul that was not very impressed by Alisdair Brown's take on Malvolio as a snooty Scots Presbyterian. From his first appearance in a black pin-stripe suit, through his mad spell in a dodgy green/yellow kilt with long yellow socks, duly cross-laced, to his famous final line "I'll be reveng'd on the whole pack of you." (which to my ear sounded so much more bitter in Scots!), a fine all-round performance.
The supporting cast are also to be commended on their performances.
The show was done against back drapes in modern costume (everyday clothes) - and the resulting lack of possible distraction was, of course, both a benefit but also a challenge to the actors.
I enjoyed this Twelfth Night very much. Anyone that misses it at the Mill - or would like to see it again - will have a chance to see it at Sulgrave Manor in June.