Such is the perfection of the physical skills shown by the cast that the fact that it is performed entirely in Russian (by a Russian cast) detracts not one bit from the audience’s enjoyment and understanding. The performance is surtitled using Shakespeare’s language in a heavily edited form to encourage the eye to follow the action.
Design is simple and effective – a virtually bare stage, elegant costume and subtle lighting – throwing the weight of the performance’s success onto the skills of the cast. Particular mention must be made of the three female characters: Olivia, Viola and Maria who were played brilliantly by Alexey Dadonov, Andrey Kuzichev and Ilia Ilyin respectively. All three gave sympathetic performances that captured the essence of their characters without evoking ‘but that’s a bloke’ feelings. Especially effective was Andrey Kuzichev as Viola pretending to be Cesario; making Olivia’s confusion over Viola and her brother Sebastian all the more believable.
A real stand out for me was the extraordinarily adept clowning of Alexander Feklistov as Sir Toby Belch and Igor Yasulovich as Feste (who also sang excellently). They made much of the drunken and fight scenes with their younger companion Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by Dmitry Diuzhev, wringing laughter from the audience with gesture, facial expression and splendid comic timing.
The rest of the cast were just as strong and the ensemble musical interludes were a real treat – most especially the final dance to celebrate the multiple weddings and betrothals. If you have to kill to get a ticket – do so! This really is an excellent production.