It’s been 17 years since Stephen Fry had a major West End stage role, and his return to treading the boards, as Malvolio in Tim Carroll’s all-male production of Twelfth Night, has been greeted with largely positive reviews.
Although Fry has already publicly been playing the character in the production at Shakespeare’s Globe, critics were not invited to the show until the play – which runs alongside Richard III – transferred to the Apollo Theatre.
The Guardian awarded four stars and said: “The big draw is Stephen Fry’s Malvolio, and he acquits himself extremely well. He is suitably grave, dignified and overbearing.”
The Independent said: “It’s hardly surprising that so much of the coverage has been focused on him – a disproportion that increased when it was decided that there would be no official reviewing of the production’s short recent run at the Globe,
“The irony is that Fry’s performance – intelligently pondered, generous to the other actors, and almost studiedly not a ‘star turn’ by a celebrity guest artiste – is exactly the opposite in tendency. It restores balance to a play in which Malvolio’s scenes can hog the limelight.”
The Arts Desk said: “Fry’s Malvolio is unexpectedly gentle, a supporting rather than scene-stealing comedic turn that seeks out the humanity in this well-intentioned pedant.”
The Telegraph were not quite as generous, but still gave the production directed by Tim Carroll, five stars overall, saying: “Stephen Fry strikes me as a solid rather than an inspired Malvolio, comically capturing the puffed up conceit and pomposity of the man, but largely missing the character’s poignancy.”
Fry’s last major West End role was in 1995 when he famously walked out of Simon Gray’s Cell Mates claiming he was suffering from stage fright. He later admitted that his disappearance was caused by bipolar disorder, a condition he has talked openly about in recent years.