Twelfth Night – Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Paul Hart

Reviewer: Matthew Bagnall

In the second of two repertory productions by Watermill Theatre, director Paul Hart has reimagined Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Twelfth Night, with all of the farce and crossdressing to boot. The audience is greeted with familiar faces at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, as the same cast treat us to another inspiring and authentic take on one of Shakespeare’s greatest works.

Watermill Theatre has made a name for itself when promoting the use of actor-musicians to jazz up familiar stories. This production of Twelfth Night is no different – in fact, this production oozes with creativity and boldness on an unprecedented scale. Interjecting modern day songs at opportune moments is no mean feat in a Shakespeare play, but Watermill’s bravery is rewarded as its approach and style is executed in this production.

On arrival, we travel back to the times of prohibition, set in a speakeasy with a sense of guilt for the beverages consumed in the auditorium before the play begins. This change in time is effective and offers a welcome contrast to the company’s other production of Romeo and Juliet which is running concurrently. Some fortunate audience members are invited to demonstrate their rhythm and timing on stage as the company choose to break down the fourth wall and interact with the audience as often as possible.

This farcical fiasco of a love story is certainly brought to life by all of the cast. The energy and charisma with which they highlight Shakespeare’s wit is exceptional, while their own comedic input brings a freshness and uniqueness that brings smiles to the faces of all watching. As you may expect, this is particularly the case during Malvolio’s somewhat unfortunate humiliation when presenting him/herself to Olivia. Peter Dukes does a fine job of portraying the lustful arrogance in the role, and can certainly pull off a pair of yellow stockings!

Victoria Blunt’s mischievousness is clear for all to see, showcasing Maria’s the darker and manipulative side for which Maria she is notorious. Aruhan Galieva captures the superiority of the ever-treasured Olivia, bringing humour to the role with the playfulness in her pursuit of the disguised Viola. Rebecca Lee offers a charming and humble portrayal of Viola, whose best intentions to please lead to the awkwardness of an unfolding love triangle.

Twelfth Night by Watermill Theatre is sure to give you an exciting, hilarious and at times unrecognisable take on a Shakespeare classic. Its modernising and fresh take on the Bard’s work is a delight as the potential for creativity is realised.

Runs until 14 July 2017 | Image: Contributed

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