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The Crack Magazine

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I, Malvolio

Northern Stage – Trailer Story

If you know your “Twelfth Night” you’ll remember the familiar romantic set-up of a ship-wrecked girl dressed as a boy who falls in love with a duke while accidentally winning the heart of lady who’s mourning her own dead brother but ends up with the first girl’s identical male twin (are you following me so far? Sort of thing that happened everyday in Elizabethan England.)  Above this searching bit of social realism, however, towers the unforgettable figure of Malvolio, steward to the Lady Olivia’s household and a monument to pompous self-deception just waiting to be toppled by the comic low-life characters. Switch your perspective, however, and Malvolio, whatever his faults, emerges as a lover of order amid the chaos, a man deceived by a cruel trick into letting down his guard only to be destroyed by an admission of affection. Tim Crouch’s one-man show offers just this viewpoint, as a stained and humiliated Malvolio surfs through his anger and shame to proffer his view of events while berating his audience (yes, us) for their failure to live up to his high standards. It’s a bitter-sweet but hilarious balancing act between inflated dignity, genuine emotional revelation and our own presumptions (eating crisps, bringing dogs, assisting at hangings and workshops on shoe-lacing, kicking the underdog – all the things that make open-air theatre so vital.) The Trailer Story weekend of live performances in Leazes Park was dogged by the sort of wet, chilly weather you can only expect at the height of summer, but for Malvolio even helicopters, cygnets and the constant threat of rain were absorbed into the texture of one of the few theatrical events where you’re expected to sit up straight and keep your hands away from your groin.

Gail-Nina Anderson

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