(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 6 June)
For a modern audience with post-Elizabethan sensibilities, Shakespeare’s treatment of Shylock in the trial scene of The Merchant of Venice and – albeit to a lesser degree – of Malvolio in Twelfth Night is uncomfortable. We find it difficult to laugh at forced conversions or at insanity.
Tim Crouch takes us into the twisted world of that admittedly overweening steward Malvolio. Crouch is dangerously intense as he manipulates his audience with a mixture of cajolery and derision. Wearing tattered and stained long-johns, yellow stockings snaking down his legs, his head covered by a lappeted cap crowned with a cuckhold’s horns and brandishing the letter which has been his downfall, he combines ridiculousness with the menacing.
Various audience members are lured into increasing his humiliation; that’s so that Crouch can turn each situation on its head to make us ashamed that we have been laughing at each predicament. When he finally resumes the clothes appropriate to his status in Olivia’s household, they are as distorted as Malvolio’s warped mind which we recognise as both inherent and provoked. it’s a disturbing piece.
Pulse 2015 ended on 6 June.