"Production overcomes limitations of space"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 28/04/16

The basement in Leicester Square Theatre is an intimate area, designed for stand ups, or at most sketch shows. So the idea of doing a full-scale production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, might seems either brave or foolhardy, depending on your view. However, Grassroots Theatre manage to overcome the limitations of the tiny improvised stage to deliver a memorable performance of the comedy.

Shipwrecked, and stranded on an unfamiliar shore, Viola (Ellie Nunn) disguises herself as a boy, working for the Count Orsino (Louis Labovitch). However, when she is sent by the lovesick noble to woo Olivia (Tamaryn Payne), Viola herself becomes the object of Olivia's affections. Meanwhile Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch (John Pickard), decides to play a prank on his niece's censorious steward Malvolio (Jim Conway), making him believe that Olivia is in love with him. Matters become even more complicated when Viola's brother Sebastian (Kit Lloyd), who has survived the same disaster, turns up.

The costumes are a little bland and the difference in height between Ellie Nunn and Kit Lloyd means that the central plot point about the duo being mistaken for each other requires a suspension of disbelief. However, the production more than overcomes these obstacles, delivering two hours of entertainment. The strongest performances come form Conway, who play the part with a gravitas that makes his apparent derangement all the more comic. Payne is also delightful as a peevish, teasing and impulsive Olivia, who falls for the very person she initially mocks.

Given that this is the start of a residency, it will be interesting to see if Grassroots can continue overcome the limitation of the space and turn it into a regular venue for proper plays.

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