Theatre reviews: Twelfth Night and No Guts, No Heart, No Glory

Sheffield Theatres and English Touring Theatre's production of Twelfth Night. Picture: Mark Douet
Sheffield Theatres and English Touring Theatre's production of Twelfth Night. Picture: Mark Douet
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Twelfth Night at Sheffield Crucible ****

Those who saw Jonathan Munby’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore at West Yorkshire Playhouse already know the director has a great eye for the epic. Formerly known as an enfant terrible of British theatre, Munby has come of age and he has lost little of his energy as evidenced by this vigorously directed show.

Munby’s directorial hand draws out the love stories of Shakespeare’s popular comedy – rarely have I noticed just how much this piece is about relationships or indeed how sexual it is.

Even Sir Toby Belch, a brilliantly drunk-playing David Fielder and Sir Andrew Aguecheek feel led by their loins. Mistaken identities are at the heart of a piece about a shipwrecked brother and twin sister. As Viola, Rose Reynolds has a luminiscent innocence about her that makes her realisation that Rebecca Johnson’s Olivia, who she is supposed to be courting for her master Orsino, has fallen for her, poignant and hilarious. Shakespeare’s most maligned character Malvolio is, as usual, left in the shadows here, particularly by the double act of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, but Brian Protheroe’s fool towers above all else. Feste is always a character apart, but Protheroe’s mellifluous voice is the icing on this exceedingly well presented cake that makes him appear a Bob Dylan-esque watcher and chronicler of the events around him.

• To October 18.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory at Bradford College *****

Lots of theatre makers talk about how they want their work to speak to the disenfranchised, appeal to everyone and be accessible. Those theatre makers need to see this show. They’ll discover why it won five star reviews, fans and a Fringe First in Edinburgh this year – entirely deservedly.

Writer Aisha Zia and director Evie Manning have achieved something interesting here. While the piece is stamped through with their own signatures, the real power comes from the sense of ownership of the five young women who bring the piece to life. Nayab Din, Seherish Mahmood, Freyaa Ali, Saira Tabasum and Marian Rashid are the young women who are beltingly brilliant in this piece. They deliver the most sweat drenched, heart-string pulling, gut-wrenchingly honest performances you’re likely to see for some time.

Spilling out on a tide of pure emotion, their unwavering stares as they ask what are they ‘supposed’ to wear when challenged by taxi drivers from their community are ferocious and bold. When they plead that they can be boxers, pursue their own dreams, while respecting the dreams of their parents, I defy you not to be moved, deeply.It’s one of the most important pieces of theatre I’ve seen for some time and its message, now more than ever, is vital.