The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

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)

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