Although it seems a natural complement to the RSC's international Complete Works Festival just down the road, Twelfth Night in Russian may not be everyone's idea of a compelling night out.
In fact the theatre was far from full for the opening performance of this production from Moscow's Chekhov Festival, yet for anyone with a more than passing interest in Shakespeare it offers a fascinating take on one of his most popular plays. And this is not just in an academic sense: it is thoroughly accessible and entertaining, as the genuine warmth of its reception demonstrated.
With the English text running as surtitles and on monitors either side of the stage (albeit a slightly odd text which seems to have been retranslated from Russian, thereby providing some surprising variations on Shakespeare's original) there is no danger of becoming lost, though you do need to find a balance between watching text and actors.
Declan Donellan's production was originally staged in Moscow in 2003 and is now touring under the banner of his company Cheek by Jowl, which is 25 years old this year.
It is thoroughly stripped-back, with a bare stage apart from some banners to conceal the conspirators in Malvolio's letter scene. This will be too spartan for some tastes, but it makes for an exhilarating fluidity and pace, with no distinction between the courts of Orsino and Olivia. Time and space flow freely together with no loss of narrative clarity.
The other obvious point is that there are no women. Having directed a famous all-male As You Like It for Cheek by Jowl in the mid-90s, Donellan repeats the process of throwing another perspective on one of Shakespeare's sex-change comedies, restoring it to the status quo of the author's own day and making the sexual ambiguity far edgier.
The music which feeds Orsino's love is not Russian, as you might suppose, but bossa nova. Evgeny Pisarev's Feste is a striking creation - a powdered straw-hatted pierrot evoking the era of the Revolution whose various musical contributions incline towards cabaret.
In fact, the knockabout characters all work well while being refreshingly out of the ordinary. Alexander Felikstov's Toby Belch is a particular delight - not the usual bloated Falstaff clone but a very Russian drunk who unpacks bottles of vodka rather than cakes and ale from a plastic carrier bag.
On the other hand the imposing Dmitry Shcherbina is perhaps the only Malvolio I have seen for whom you could actually imagine Olivia falling, the character's pomposity seemingly one of the few things that get lost in translation. Donnellan has moved Malvolio's exit line - "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!" - to the very end, after he has poured out celebratory drinks in apparent reconciliation.
It changes it from an empty whine to a seeming promise that the fun and games are to be continued.
* Running time: Two hours, 30 minutes. Until Saturday.