The play is geared towards young audiences, especially perhaps at those being introduced to Twelfth Night for the first time. Malvolio stands on stage humiliated and bitterly tells us the story of how he got there, from the death of the old count's son and the succession of Olivia as head of the house, through the descent from order to chaos with the arrival of Sir Toby Belch, to the trick played upon him by the other servants and it's horrific consequence. Audience interaction is slick, and the script weaves original material with phrases from Shakespeare to good effect, with Crouch accurately capturing Malvolio's tone even when complaining about the probable drunkenness of his audience, or the fact that we are slouching, or that some of us are wearing bifocal glasses.
This, however, is metatheatre at its most self-conscious. As the audience, we are complicit in Malvolio's persecution because we laugh at his extraordinary get-up, at the signs written on his back and the prim mannerisms that guard his obsessively puritanical love of order. His hour long self-defence is geared at making the audience uncomfortable about their laughter, and to an extent it worked. The audience member employed to whisk the chair out from under his feet as he tried to hang himself looked decidedly unsure about the whole thing, though this may have been more to do with the legal implications of hanging an actor in the middle of his play.
But while I felt that the self-consciousness of the theatrical setting disallowed any real empathy with the character, as an introduction to the plot of Twelfth Night – or as the worthy return of a great comedy character, I, Malvolio is a well-written, well acted and perfectly executed piece of fun. I particularly liked his rant about the insane behaviour of those outside the comic subplot: a girl disguises herself as a boy for really no good reason, and everyone marries everyone else after less than a day of knowing who, or what gender, they actually are. I would highly recommend catching this show while it's in town.