Being taken for a tour of the V&A's Tudor treasures by Malvolio, the pompous, cross-gartered steward from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, is an intriguing concept.
Malvolio's Misorder written and directed by Dominic Gerrard, was commissioned as part of the museum's week-long Performance Festival. It offers a half-hour promenade entertainment by Malvolio, who is joined by a supporting cast of wry lady-in-waiting Maria, and the uncontrollably troublesome Sir Toby Belch. A storm is raging outside, but the trio is there to show visitors the brightest treasures of Lady Olivia's Ilyrian home, here set in the museum's British gallery.
The show starts brightly, with Alasdair Craig's Malvolio dour and tight-lipped in deepest black, mourning for Olivia's dead brother while secretly preparing for the possibility of becoming a prospective husband for the lady of the house.
He warns us to behave ourselves, but his idea of a good tour - a portrait bust of Henry VII, religious paintings and so on - is neatly undermined by Lotte Allan's Maria, who likes a bit of fun and is more interested in showing us the juicy stuff like the Great Bed of Ware. This is mentioned in the play itself, and has room for not one but four couples to spend a cosy night together.
But neither Malvolio nor Maria is able to contain the roaring, drunken Sir Toby, played by Nick Haverson as a man of cunning and wit as well as relentless bonhomie. But while Haverson has tremendous charisma and authority, and his characterization is hugely entertaining, it actually signals a slight faltering of the show's momentum, as the tour of the artefacts ends and the action is now contained within one room.
Once news of a shipwreck comes in, the accusations start to fly between Sir Toby and Malvolio as they squabble over control of the well-stocked cellars. They're also divided on what to do about rescuing the drowning sailors just off their shores - who we know, of course, will include Viola and Sebastian.
However Gerrard uses their in-house fighting as a vehicle to explore and expand on interesting ideas within the play - like Maria's status as a widow, which has given her a head-start in how to win a man. With Sir Toby in her sights, she too is aiming higher than anyone might expect.
There's music too, and the closing three-part rendition of "The Wind and the Rain" has a beautiful poignancy.
This is an entertaining and cleverly conceived show in a beautiful setting, and offers an interesting take on the relationships between these three characters. Malvolio's closing wail of impotent rage does make you feel sorry for him. But only a bit.
Malvolio's Misorder runs at the V&A until 27 April.