Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Worth watching for the comments thread alone: NT’s Twelfth Night livestream reviewed

Plus: a snappy, energetic and entertaining portrait of the Brontës

Doon Mackichan as Feste and Tamsin Greig as Malvolia in the National Theatre's brilliant Twelfth Night. Image: Marc Brenner

‘Enjoy world-class theatre online for free,’ announces the National Theatre. Every Thursday at 7 p.m. a play from the archive is livestreamed. I watched Twelfth Night, from 2017, starring Tamsin Greig as a female Malvolio. What a handsome, absorbing and brilliantly staged production this is. Greig’s comically petulant Malvolia won the plaudits, rightly, while the underrated Tim McMullan turned Sir Toby into a wry, wobbly, loveable drunkard, like a rock star enjoying a month on the lash. Having seen the original, I preferred the online experience, not least because of the noisy comments thread beside the screen.

‘How do you get Russian subtitles?’ ‘When’s the interval?’ ‘Why a female Malvolio?’ ‘Watching from Brussels.’ ‘Why they talk weird?’ ‘I’m also in Brussels.’ ‘I’m doing this for english alevel.’ ‘How long does it go on for?’ ‘Can I watch Treasure Island?’ ‘Just tuned in what’d I miss?’

I preferred the online experience of Twelfth Night, not least because of the noisy comments thread

A business-like viewer asked: ‘If everyone here donated 1 pound how much would they earn?’ The answer was £36,523 according to the audience total at its peak. The National preferred to invite donations and raised more than £7,000. After the interval, new viewers arrived, some uncertain which play was being broadcast.

‘No q for the toilet, AWESOME.’ ‘Love Olivia’s outfit.’ ‘Anyone see the globe theatre show of Macbeth?’ ‘I never thought Shakes could be soooooo funny.’ ‘Anyone else having violent 90s flashbacks?’ ‘When does he turn into an ass?’ ‘Why do you insist on transposing Bard to present day, never works.’ ‘The guy who plays Macbeth is gorg.’ ‘I’m gonna watch some paint dry instead.’ ‘I am here watching with a 6 yo, NOT appropriate.’ ‘When is Frankenstein, ooh yes Cumberbatch please.’

The last comment is relevant because Twelfth Night has already been supplanted by Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.

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