Twelfth Night/Worcester Repertory Company

THE director has wisely chosen John-Robert Partridge to be the running visual joke that dominates this endurance marathon of a play.

He’s not so much Sir Toby Belch rather a Falstaff, a corpulent rogue barrage balloon that has broken free from its mooring ropes and started careering about Worcester Cathedral.

He spent the first half drinking, burping and on one occasion… well, never mind. And then it suddenly dawned… he’d got through everyone else’s share of liquid refreshment, because there wasn’t a drop to be had during the interval.

Even worse, the Cathedral café was also out of bounds to ordinary mortals such as myself, apparently reserved for the more important souls in God’s great church.

As the evening wore on, it also became cold, and we began to contemplate death by dehydration or hypothermia. Possibly both.

Worcester Rep always makes a fair fist of its annual autumn homage to the Bard of Avon, and there were indeed some sterling performances by its leading lights.

Nick Wilkes cut a dashing figure as young blade Orsino, a nobleman of Ilyrria. William Shakespeare, like the rock stars of four centuries later, knew a good riff when he saw one, hence the morass of mistaken identity and general gender-bending that provides the framework for this work.

Jonathan Legg’s direction not only makes the most of Partridge’s character, but he also soups up the action with the supremely talented Heidi Gowthorpe as Feste, not so much a fool more a Tudor titwillow with a voice as sweet as a hogshead of mead.

Murray Andrews as Belch’s foppish sidekick Sir Andrew Aguecheek also gets his share of the laughs, while Jonathan Darby’s Malvolio turns in a masterful performance as the real fool in the story.

However, this production - running over by half an hour - was far too long. It should have been given tighter editing, if only to prevent us dying from cold or thirst sat on unforgiving seats in the Quire. Twelfth Night runs until Saturday (October 20).

John Phillpott