Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Julia Thomas
Reviewer: John Roberts
Julia Thomas has found magic with her production of Shakespeare’s hilarious comedy Twelfth Night as part of this year’s summer season at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Not only has she managed to perfectly cast the rep company to play to their strongest suits, but she pushes the pace of the production and the comedy perfectly.
Shakespeare’s comedy of love and mistaken identity has been performed so many times before that it’s hard to come up with anything new or groundbreaking in how it should be played, and Thomas’ production, in all honesty, struggles to find anything fresh in her production, however, she does is embody the production with a truth that runs throughout all the characters that the key moments are played with sincerity and ensures that the comedy is beautifully realised.
Rhys Jarman’s set design is simple, wrought-iron gates separate the voms from the playing space and ribbons adorning the pride-like colours are displayed at opposite sides, his costuming suggests a modern yet non-descript time frame where familiarity reigns supreme but never over-burdens the story and allows the action to take centre stage – perhaps the only real negative to the production is the shipwreck at the top of the show never really hits the way it should, so those who don’t really know the story may struggle to grasp what has just happened.
Jessica Dives gives a money-driven portrayal of Feste which balances brilliantly alongside Chris Wright’s devilish Toby Belch and Mitesh Soni’s dim and simple take on Andrew Aguecheek. In the dual role of Viola/Cesario Whitney Kehinde gives a strongly nuanced performance which works incredibly well with Steven Elliot’s free-loving Count Orsino and Sarah-Jane Potts’ delicately divine Olivia. But this production is ultimately stolen by Samuel Collings as the po-faced yogo loving servant Malvolio – arguably giving the best presentation of the part that this reviewer has ever seen.
As Shakespeare’s go this is arguably one of the best and with a hard-working cast and strong direction, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Illyria this summertime.
Runs in REP until 25 August 2019 | Image: contributed