Twelfth Night

Mon 11th – Wed 13th June 2012

reviews

Tom Ryder

at 18:59 on 18th Jun 2012

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Thrust Stage’s adaptation of Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night was a pleasure to behold, especially with its ambitious staging amongst the tranquillity of the Botanic Gardens.

Potential punters had been promised that they would be transported to the island of Illyria and we were not disappointed, as the gardens lent a mystical air to proceedings. All aspects of the setting were used adventurously, be it the fountain, the surrounding walls or even the undergrowth!

And what we witnessed was a polished piece of theatre which incorporated mistaken identity, multiple frantic romantic pursuits, a great deal of jest, and plenty of hilarity.

The plot hinges on twins Viola (played by Elizabeth O’Connor) and Sebastian (Conor Turley), who are estranged and veer off to lead markedly different lives. Viola is forced to disguise herself as a boy as she becomes the servant of Duke Orsino (Adam Kirkbridge), whilst Sebastian lives his life as a castaway. It is only at the end of the play that they are dramatically reunited having befuddled the captivating Olivia (Hannah Sewell). Sewell’s performance as Olivia was thoroughly engaging as she struggled to distinguish between Viola and Sebastian, being as she was the subject of relentless male adoration.

The dialogue was crisp and fluid and was tied together in slick fashion, as all parts of the fountain and surrounding hedges were used effectively as exit and entrance points for the actors. Most impressive of all though was the standout performance of Simon Gallow as the drunken reprobate Sir Toby Belch. Every time Gallow entered a scene the audience hung on his every word, outrageous gesture or contorted facial expression. Forming a riotous ensemble with the blundering Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Ed Cherrie) and Olivia’s servant Maria (Caitlin McEwan), the three conspire against Olivia’s pompous head steward Malvolio (Michael Earnshaw), after he disturbs their late night revelry. They trick him with a false letter into believing that Olivia is in love with him, prompting him to dress in yellow garters and behave like a fool in front of his mistress. The scene where Malvolio reads the letter aloud while the gang attempt to conceal themselves in the undergrowth was a particularly memorable one.

Joe Skelton is also deserving of a mention for his skilled take on the jester Feste. Skelton displayed his juggling, singing, guitar playing and multiple character voicings and his likeability was the glue that held the production together and allowed it to flow without error.

The play ultimately saw Malvolio condemned to imprisonment in darkness following accusations of madness. He is, however, reconciled at the conclusion, as the true nature of Belch and co’s meddling is revealed. A pleasant song from Feste brought the piece to a close to deserved and hearty applause from the picnicking crowd.

Some props may have broken during the performance, and those on stage found themselves fighting to be heard a little amidst a combination of birdsong and grunting tennis players on some nearby courts. This production was however a resounding success and the cast and production team are to be congratulated. The setting could not have been more apt and I will look forward in anticipation to Thrust Stage’s future offerings, as much of this cast and crew are only in their fresher year.

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