Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by John Amiel & Trevor Nunn
Ian McKellen in the role of Producer / Sir Toby Belch
Small Scale Tour, Horsham, Tunbridge Wells, Poole, Portsmouth, Canterbury, Peterborough, Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich, Edinburgh, Stirling, Dunfermline, Paisley, Dewsbury, Sheffield, Oldham, Milton Keynes, Exmouth, Redruth, Plymouth, Torrington, Frome, Blandford Forum
13 July 1978
Words from Ian McKellen
Toby Belch is probably the longest part in the play and in most of his scenes he is the engine of the plot. If his energies flag, so does everything around him. All Toby's humour has to be worked hard for, so it can be a little riling, when Sir Andrew's one-liners cream off all the best laughs in, for example, their night drinking scene with Maria and Feste and Malvolio.
The character is well-rounded, more than just bluster and bullying. As his name suggests, Belch is an alcoholic although I played him without the traditional toper's paunch. His title is probably hereditary, implying an upper-class education and lifestyle. I used an appropriately fruity accent and made it clear that he was a trained swordsman in the comic fight with Viola. His main problem is lack of money, making him dependent on his niece and on Aguecheek's ever-open purse.
In almost everything he does, he betrays his unhappiness, despite his quick wit, so that when Maria agrees to marry him by the end, the audience is relieved as she is. Despite his crudeness and cruelty toward the lower classes, Toby's spirit is attractive, battling the notion that youth's the stuff does not endure.