Twelfth Night

Wed 1st – Sat 4th February 2012

reviews

Sophie Strang

at 22:37 on 1st Feb 2012

1agrees

1disagrees

Whilst this production of "Twelfth Night" was not entirely without merit, what merit was present, was craftily hidden amongst lacklustre acting, fumbled lines, and a drummer with less rhythm than a sea cucumber.

The idea of setting the play in a jazz bar certainly has potential, but unfortunately did not always work in practise and promised a more interesting interpretation of the play than it actually offers. The transformation of lady's maid Maria (Alice Fraser) into a barmaid does work well with the bawdiness of her character and the presence of a bar on stage enhances several of the scenes between her and the drunkard Sir Toby Belch (David Cochrane). Sadly, Shakespeare's fool has been entirely abandoned and replaced (for what reason we know not) with a husky-voiced bar-singer. Not just any bar-singer, but the really annoying kind who insist on playing so loud that you can't hear what your date (or Viola) is saying. This Feste has no resemblance to the Feste of Shakespeare whatsoever. He prances about the stage ostentatiously with a nonchalant grin, dragging his badly-tuned guitar behind him. On multiple occasions the director has mistakenly allowed Feste to sing whole songs, none of which have very much to do with the play at all and all of which are accompanied by the rhythmless Curio (Duncan Lindsey) on the djembe. These odd interludes add nothing to the play, leave the other actors on stage peering awkwardly at the walls and each other and chip painfully away at audience's interest.

As for the acting: Viola (Kate O'Connor) sadly spoke far too fast, mumbling her way through some of Shakespeare's best lines and Fabian (Andrew Perch) delivered his lines with a truly impressive lack of emotion that never failed to disrupt any scene he appeared in. However, it was not all bad. Imogen O'Sullivan did well to bring out the fiery stubbornness in Olivia's character and Cochrane as Sir Toby Belch managed to deliver persuasive drunken Shakespearean with only a few slip-ups. Of particular note were Fraser (Maria) and Rhodes (Malvolio) both of whom really stood out in this underwhelming production. Rhodes as Malvolio was perfectly slimed and sinister, and his displays of madness were both brilliantly funny and emotionally engaging.

About half way through the play the number of lines mumbled by the actors gradually increased. It seemed that they were all just as aware as we that the performance was going badly, and wanted nothing more than to get it all over as quickly as possible. Whilst this hardly improved the quality of the play, it did propel it towards its end quite effectively, and for that we were grateful.

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Becky Wyatt

at 00:33 on 2nd Feb 2012

0agrees

1disagrees

Robin McGhee’s "Twelfth Night" was an interesting and innovative way of screening Shakespeare’s play. A solid overall performance and a strong cast made the modern adaption of "Twelfth Night" a success. Extra credit must go to Alice Fraser for her role of Maria who was an outstanding character and played the role in eccentric fashion. Many laughs were apparent from drunks Sir Toby Belch (David Cochrane) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Alexander Pullinger), which provided a well balanced comedy act, and Feste (Orowa Sikder) and Curio’s (Duncan Lindsey) musical act was a nice touch. The balance between comedy, music, and serious acting was well done by Declan Clowry.

The play is based around the story of Viola (Kate O’Connor) who ends up on the island of Illyria after a shipwreck and in order to survive, must pretend to be a man – Cesario. She works for Duke Orsino (Matt Ball) and is ordered to try to help him win over the affection of Lady Olivia (Imogen O’Sullivan), who will have nothing to do with any suitors, including the Duke. Whilst being the messenger, Olivia falls for Cesario, and whilst working for the Duke, Viola falls for her master. The comical subplot involves several characters trying to deceive Olivia’s head steward, Malvolio (Peter Rhodes) that Olivia wishes to marry him.

The stage was set with the audience on two sides, making the actors have to rotate around the stage, which was achieved so that the audience on either side could get out the most of the production. Olivia and the Duke were placed on either end of the stage, opposing each other, which worked well with the characters on their respective side shown in the lighting and acting on the relevant end of the stage. This was useful for those unfamiliar with the story so confusion was reduced as to who was part of which family. The language was generally modern day, which was received well by the audience who could appreciate Shakespeare’s work on a more personal level, and again was easier to follow. The only criticism that can be made is that at times the speech was too quick, especially at the start, but once the play got going, and the actors relaxed, the words were clearer to hear.

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