Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Phillip Franks
Reviewer: Jo Sharp
Directing and producing a Shakespeare play as famous as Twelfth Night is a challenge to the best in the trade. Most of the audience know the romance driven plot, so are craving for a newer fresh angle on the script. Therefore, visual, aural and spacial elements are vital to creating this atmosphere.
The opening set certainly steals your attention with interesting lighting and mystical objects hanging from the ceiling to create a unique acting space. It was evident from the first dialogue that the acting was of a high quality – however I was in anticipation of how the comedy characters would be handled.
It was obvious that a few members of the cast were struggling to fill the auditorium with their voices but generally the dialogue was clearly audible. The musical numbers had no struggle in volume but did seem to take over moments in the play, the performance could’ve done with cutting one or two musical numbers. The director also used the musical elements to enhance the hilarity of the play – he definitely succeeded in doing this. The large audience reacted well to the comedy with the odd chuckle from the slightly slower members of the audience!
The acting was generally superb with the better contributions coming from the older members of the cast. Patrick Stewart (Malvolio) was extremely strong in his role and kept the audiences attention with every sound, expression and twitch. Martin Turner gave a charming performance as Orsino, although the age gap between him and Laura Rees (Viola) was slightly distracting!
Visually, there were subtle changes in lighting – most to indicate times of day; the costumes were fairly plain – neither overly elaborate nor suggesting a particular time period. This is one of the only Shakespeare plays where he insists on certaincostume specifics (Malvolio’s yellow stockings cross gartered). Occasionally a gramophone would be lowered to centre stage; this would be the backing track to which the characters would sing (live!).
My general enjoyment of this performance surprised me…I thoroughly enjoyed watching the older characters, but the younger ones were struggling to match their expert acting and this made them less easy to watch. With tickets ranging from £10 to £32, if this experience of Shakespeare and/or Twelfth Night will be your first, I would highly recommend it. However, if you have seen a few Shakespeare plays staged and are familiar with the plot of Twelfth Night, you may be disappointed by this production which lacks a fresh approach to the play.