Having toured to five continents, the hugely loved and celebrated solo play I, Malvolio returns to Brighton Dome Studio Theatre – the place where it all started in 2010 – this month… and it comes with a warning: Malvolio has a bone to pick with his audience.
Told from the perspective of from a man “notoriously wronged”, I, Malvolio sees Brighton-based multi-award winning playwright and performer Tim Crouch tell a tale of lost dignity, prudery, practical jokes and bullying - it’s Twelfth Night told from the loser’s perspective – in an outrageous and riotous manner.
We caught up with Tim to hear more about the show, his love of the character, and his favourite Shakespeare shows…
Tell us a bit about the show. What’s your role within it all?
It’s an existential bare-knuckle howl against the tyranny of the crowd. It’s a savagely funny philosophical clown show about how we get our kicks. It’s a solo show with two characters – me and you, the performer and the audience, the victim and the persecutor, the theatre-goer and the theatre-hater. It’s the restitution of a man notoriously abused.
I’m a piece of grit within the oyster of the audience. I get inside them and rub them up the wrong way and something beautiful is made. We adopt roles and we play together. We both win and we both lose. I’m master of ceremonies, but I’m also prime victim. My role is to cling to the script like crazy whilst completely letting go. No two performances are the same.
Out of all of Shakespeare’s characters, why Malvolio?
At the end of Twelfth Night the man is a wreck. He needs salvaging. His last line in that play is ‘I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you’, but he’s never given the chance. I give him the chance. He gets his revenge. I’m also fascinated because he is a character who hates the theatre, he hates entertainment and good times – so I give him his own one man show and I watch him squirm.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
A memory of an encounter with yourselves. This play pushes quite hard against the envelope of audience complacency. No one is put on the spot but there is an invitation to get implicated. I, Malvolio looks at the way we get off on cruelty as an audience. We laugh at the man slipping on the banana skin because it’s him and not us. In this show I am the man falling and you are the people laughing. It’s unlike any show I know because you, the audience, are its subject. You are not kept in the dark; you are the reason for its existence.
What are you favourite five Shakeapeare plays?
‘Like for a Rate’ with Shakespeare... Macbeth. Midsummer Nights Dream. King Lear. Measure for Measure. The Tempest. There. Happy now?
Who inspires you, and why?
My Mum and Dad; easily more able than me, but with no compunction to show off about it, teachers all their lives, giving and giving, supporting, guiding, changing lives, now in their eighties and dealing with decline with a measured grace, generosity and humility that I can only wish for.
I, Malvolio plays in Brighton Dome Studio Theatre on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March. To book tickets, click here.