DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Twelfth Night – Botanical Gardens, Sheffield

Reviewer: Jacob Bush

Writer: William Shakespeare

Additional Writing: Emma Hodgkinson

Director: Peter Mimmack

Twelfth Night – a classic Shakespearean tale set on the mystical island of Illyria, full of romance and hidden identities. In true Heartbreak Productions style, the play has been brought right in the 2022 with the exotic island Illyria being the location for 12 Nights, a reality TV show where contestants are put together on an island to fall in love with each other. Sound familiar? Some may think that Shakespeare would have been rolling in his grave at the thought of this but it works surprisingly well when considering the themes of the play. This is a fantastically creative way to bring the play into the present for an audience that really was filled with people of all ages.

Peter Mimmack’s directorial vision for the play, alongside Emma Hodgkinson adaptation of the original text, holds up very well for the most part. The movement between modern English and Shakespearean English never feels jarring and the events of the plot fit almost perfectly into the setting. Kate Wragg’s design is fairly simple but works well, with lots of playing space available for the cast. The inclusion of a TV screen is a brilliant idea and really helps bring the piece up to date, and give the audience an insight into the characters they’re going to meet before the play starts. Libby Esler’s costume designs are nothing spectacular but work well in assisting the audience to differentiate between characters, as most of the cast members play multiple roles.

Erin Claire Spence takes on the role of Viola and their male alter-ego Cesario. They give an great performance, making the character really likeable. However a little more variation between Viola and Cesario would not have gone amiss. They get the opportunity to showcase their stunning singing voice which is a delight to listen to. Deakin van Leeuwen also demonstrates his musical talent as Orsino and Andrew. His Orsino is endearing and an audience favourite whilst he uses his excellent comic timing as Andrew. Van Leeuwen does a tremendous job bringing the two characters to life, making them completely contrasting in characterisation.

Simon Garrington’s performance as Toby Belch and Sebastian is fantastic. His scenes as Toby Belch are particularly enjoyable and he makes a tremendous comedy duo with van Leeuwen’s Andrew. Their scenes together have a huge amount of energy and are brilliant fun to watch. Eloise Hare’s gives lovely performances as Olivia and Maria. Her Maria joins Garrington and van Leeuwen’s double act seamlessly, whilst her Olivia is heartfelt performance. Stuart Ash completes the cast as Feste and Malvolio. As he settled into Malvolio, his performances in both roles were excellent, getting plenty of laughs from his over the top yet lovable  characterisation of Malvolio. He narrates the piece perfectly as Feste, filling in the gaps between scenes, taking on the role of the TV show’s host. He feels like he could be straight off a reality TV show with his larger than life personality, although because he builds a strong rapport with audience immediately when he first appears as Malvolio it takes a little while to click that he is indeed playing a different role.

Twelfth Night, or 12 Nights as it is called in this case, is a brilliantly creative and unique interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play, which brings the story into the modern day for a new audience whilst still respecting the original text. It is a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon or evening out for all the family.

Touring nationwide.

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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