Twelfth Night

Theatre, Shakespeare
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerDoon Mackichan as Feste,Tamsin Greig as Malvolia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerPhoebe Fox as Olivia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerPhoebe Fox as Olivia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerTim McMullan as Sir Toby Belch
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerOliver Chris
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerTamara Lawrance as Viola, Phoebe Fox as Olivia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerDaniel Ezra as Sebastian, Adam Best as Antonio
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerDaniel Ezra as Sebastian
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerOliver Chris as Orsino, Daniel Ezra as Sebastian
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerOliver Chris as Orsino
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerOliver Chris as Orsino, Tamara Lawrance as Viola
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerTamsin Greig as Malvolia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerTamsin Greig as Malvolia, Tamara Lawrance as Viola
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerDaniel Rigby as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Niky Wardley as Maria
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerDaniel Rigby as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Tim McMullan as Sir Toby Belch
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerDoon Mackichan as Feste
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerNiky Wardley as Maria, Tamsin Greig as Malvolia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerTamsin Greig as Malvolia, Phoebe Fox as Olivia
 (© Marc Brenner)
© Marc BrennerTim McMullan as Sir Toby Belch, Doon Mackichan as Feste,Daniel Rigby as Sir Andrew Aguecheek

This star-studded, discreetly woke 'Twelfth Night' is masses of fun

This delicious crowd pleaser of a 'Twelfth Night' isn't the most heavyweight take you'll ever see, but if you’re looking for actual laughs then you’re in luck. Director Simon Godwin takes Shakespeare's mistaken identity comedy, spices it up with with a bit of sexual fluidity, then chucks in a bunch of great comedy character actors and leaves them to go nuts.

Tamsin Greig is the person on the posters, and she's enjoyable as a Grim Reaperish Malvolia (ie a gender reversed Malvolio) who stalks the household of her mourning mistress Olivia (Phoebe Fox) in a severe bob and foul temper. If it does feel that perhaps the elaborate wind up that leads to her thinking Olivia is in love with her possibly leaves the character on the brink of being a repressed lesbian stereotype. But the scene in which she declares her love for Olivia is so wonderfully weird, and this Illyria – the island the play is set on – seems to be so queer friendly generally, that it doesn’t ever feel like it’s laughing at her sexuality.

It’s certainly far more than the Tamsin Greig show – Godwin’s production groans with brilliant turns. Foremost is surely Daniel Rigby, who plays the foppish Sir Andrew Aguecheek as a dim witted, man-bunned hipster who stumbles confusedly through the play – frequently staring in confusion at the actual stage machinery – pretty much doing whatever he’s told to by Tim McMullan’s hilariously louche Toby Belch, who poor, sweet Andrew is clearly madly in love with (it’s strongly suggested the two have had a fling in the past). Fox is tremendously good fun as a slightly bonkers Olivia, with a thing for dancing when nobody is watching. Olivier Chris does his mad toff act as enjoyably as ever as pining prince Orsino. And if rising star Tamara Lawrance doesn’t have as juicy a comic role, she’s charismatic and loveable as Viola, the girl-dressed-as-boy who must negotiate all these weirdos as she attempts to track down her long-lost brother Sebastian (Daniel Ezra).

Toss in designer Soutra Gilmour’s sumptuous costumes and a few show offy setpieces (notably a cabaret club in which the songs are famous soliloquies from other Shakespeare plays) and in essence you have a lot of fun. It’s not the most cerebral production of a comedy that’s often treated with a lot more seriousness, and though I guess it is pretty woke, it’s not trying to make a big deal of it. Instead it’s one of those Shakespeare revivals that reminds you that with a crack cast and a lot of love, a 400-plus year-old comedy can still deliver the LOLs.

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Instantly recognisable dialogues. AMAZING AMAZING SET.

And brilliant casting.

The best production of Twelfth Night i have seen. The cast are evenly good. Most people go to watch Tamasin Greig but  the rest of the performers were giving ehr a run for her money.

I loved it so much, I went twice!


A really enjoyable show. Tamsin Grieg is a delight as "Malvolia". It is a very well cast production, with a very clever set. Just a few negatives I don't think the gay "Elephant" club scene fitted very neatly, & although I thought Doon Mackichan's singing was just fine I did think her performance (as Feste) was just a bit over the top. 

This was loads of fun. Got in last minute after being advised by a number of kind folk to dump my tix for Don Juan in Soho last night. Lots of laughter and gender swapping worked a treat. Think might be a little in love with Tamsin Grieg.Thx all of those who suggested trying to get tix for this. Def right decision to dump Don Juan tix. I had a great night out. Next up is R + G.


A joyful, gender-bending extravaganza but also a production that contains enormous pathos - especially in the moments as Tamsin Greig's outcast Malvolia, stripped of her puritanical black bob and culottes, ascends the looming Art Deco staircase and abandons herself to the pouring rain which even in Illyria "raineth everyday". 

Greig shines as Malvolia. I always have my reservations at feminine re-imaginings, but Greig's expert comic timing and magnetic stage presence quelled such doubts.

The rest of the cast are similarly effective, with Phoebe Fox's Olivia interestingly child-like in her tantrums and seductions - more like a little girl playing mistress of a household.

The comic set-pieces were a little hit and miss, as was the characterisation of Orsino - a toff in a huff rather than a lovelorn romantic - but this production is definitely worth seeing.


Director Simon Godwin brings a new take on this feisty and funny Shakespeare classic. This gender swapping play is hilarious mainly because of Tamsin Grieg's straight laced Malvolia ( the female version of the original plays Malvolio.) She keeps the household in order before transtorming into the yellow stocking, crossed gartered incarnation we are all familiar with.

I think this play is great for the National, it's fun and playfull. Other scene stealing performances go to Phoebe Fox who plays Olivia. She has such incredible energy and her scene in the jacuzzi, yes you heard right, is not to be missed! Live music throughout, and the turning staircase in the middle of the stage creates very thoughtful and engaging scene changes.


Twelfth Night is arguably Shakespeare's most gender fluid play, and the lines are blurred even further in this new production at the National. Tamsin Grieg plays Malvolia - a female incarnation of the play's humiliated Malvolio. This central conceit works well, and Grieg shines as she transforms from straight-laced, po-faced butler into a singing, dancing showgirl (a tad far-fetched, but entertaining nonetheless). The rest of the cast are strong, with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew providing unexpected comic relief. Musicians play live throughout, which adds energy and zest to the proceedings. The stage's dour colouring sucked out some of this energy, but it did offer variety and used the National's revolving platform to its full potential. In short, it's an interesting, original incarnation of a well-loved play. Grieg's performance and the overall concept are too good to miss - catch it while you can!


It takes a lot to persuade me to go out on a school night. The prospect of the NT doing Shakespeare, let alone Tamsin Greig was enough to do it, although the prospect of a three hour running time did fill me with a degree of dread. 

Suffice to say, it was well worth feeling a bit tired the next day. The show is wonderfully staged, brilliantly performed and full of laughs. Shakespeare would be proud at how well his words when down with the crowd.