The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-uponAvon
SO Richard Wilson, known to millions as curmudgeonly pensioner Victor Meldrew, is making his RSC debut as Shakespeare’s party pooper, the curmudgeonly steward Malvolio.
Just as he did with Hamlet and David Tennant, director Gregory Doran has again brought together the perfect marriage of actor and character — or so it seems.
Wilson is at heart a theatre man. He skilfully directed Antony Sher through Sher’s adaptation of Primo Levi’s If This is a Man. But let’s face it. It is the prospect of that familiar stare of exasperation — made famous by television’s Meldrew — and the expectation of it being directed at Richard McCabe’s flatulent Sir Toby Belch and James Fleet’s preening Sir Andrew Aguecheek, that promises so much. This, after all, is a play that induces wriggles of anticipation at Malvolio’s yellow-stockinged humiliation and a desolate sense of injustice at his imprisonment.
Yet at each opportunity, Doran fails to fulfil the potential for laughter and pain. When Wilson cracks open that austere visage, there is little sense of a suppressed passion within. And his love for Alexandra Gilbreath’s playful Olivia is merely a distraction from his preferred state of loneliness.
Not so much laughter and pain then, merely amusement and sadness. ( Tel: 0844 800 1110)