Shakespeare'sTwelfth Night

Dates and Venue 27 May 26 September 2008 @ 8pm | Bard on the Beach Mainstage Tent, Vanier Park

Director David Mackay Composer and Music Director Murray Price Stage and Scenery Designer David Roberts Lighting Gerald King Projection Jamie Nesbit Costumes Mara Gottler Fight Director Nicholas Harrison Stage Manager Stephen Courtney

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Oh, nostalgia! Twelfth Night opened with a silent movie with captions of the early 1920’s! The shipwrecked Viola (Lois Anderson), is accompanied by a sea captain, his mate, and a sea chest that provide the hapless girl with a young man’s attire, and she’s off to try her luck in a strange new land.

Time and place are now established so that the unfamiliar characters, unexpected episodes and ninety year old fantastic costumes come as intriguing period pieces. The wealthy Orsino (Todd Talbot) sings his lament “If music be the food of love “ to his attendants and receives the information that his suit to the love of his life, the mourning Olivia (Melissa Poll), has been rejected again.

Olivia’s household is not a quiet retreat. Her roistering uncle and his friends upset its even tenor with their enjoyment of wit, merriment, and good cheer, at the lady’s expense.

Her faithful, austere, and self-righteous steward Malvolio, is plagued by their lack of decorum and the butt of their jokes. Friends and servants gang up to humiliate the authoritative Malvolio, played with great dignity by Andrew Wheeler.

The go-between Orsino and Olivia is now the young Cesario, the shipwrecked Viola. Both Orsino and Olivia are attracted to “the lovely boy”.
With the arrival of Sebastian (Robert Maloney), Viola’s twin, rescued from the sea and financed by the shady character Antonia (Gerry Mackay), all is resolved, and dancing and love abound.

There are innovative and very funny scenes worked into this updated Twelfth Night. The letter scene is brilliantly devised and carried out by Sir Toby (David Marr), Andrew Aguecheek (Ryan Beil) and Fabian (Patti Allan). New characteristics are discovered in Feste (Scott Bellis) and Tiffany Lindall-Knight is a scheming, fun loving Maria.

Lois Anderson’s Viola is felicitously delicious as she deftly navigates her way through the problems born from her disguise to her ultimate joy in the recognition of her true self. There are some small but very pertinent objects and inventions in this production that add to the fun and point up the ambivalence of some characters.

Mara Gottler’s costume designs are stars of this show. Olivia’s beautiful gowns, showing her gradual emergence from mourning, are elegant and sophisticated. The 20s sporting clothes and dated shoes of the men and the gangster suit of Antonio are all redolent of the Al Capone era. The clever comic disguises in the letter scene are a delight, while Malvolio’s cross-gartered appearance is one of the highlights of this brilliant array of period wardrobe.

The music and dancing all diffuse the atmosphere of the flapper era and are an integral part of this well put together production. The introduced additions to the text are well chosen and fit in with the original work.

Unfortunately, much of the lyricism and magic of the play has been overwhelmed by the spectacle, cleverness, and entertainment, so that the production seems to lack warmth and feeling. This may well be rectified as the season progresses.

© 2008 Jane Penistan