DramaNorth WestReview

Twelfth Night – Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot

Reviewer: John McRoberts

Writer: William Shakespeare

Adaptor/Director: Jimmy Fairhurst

‘If music be the food of love… play on!” One of Shakespeare’s most famous lines and one that Not Too Tame truly embodies in their current production of Twelfth Night at The Shakespeare North Playhouse. As a local theatre company and indeed one of Shakespeare North’s associate companies, Not Too Tame aim to make theatre that is democratic and accessible. Their ideas are fresh and bring an energy to that stage that many companies struggle to achieve, it’s this drive and passion, that makes Not Too Tame a company to watch.

In Jimmy Fairhurst’s interpretation of (arguably) one of The Bard’s best comedies, he transports the action of the play into the music industry – and while on paper this should work brilliantly – in practice, it feels a little too restrictive to allow the piece to flourish completely. Ironically, when the concept is almost forgotten in the second act, the play soars, the comedy feels free and the performances more natural – that said Fairhurst’s ability to weave modern prose into Shakespeare’s tight structure and blend it to such an extent it almost feels as if the man himself might have written it is a powerful skill to bring to the mix.

Good Teeth’s set design is simple and effective – musical instruments and amplifiers surround the stage and high above, a cage-like chandelier menacingly looms overhead while trapdoors and the theatre’s vomitories help the actors with many options for entrances and exits.

Headlining the production is Les Dennis – who as Malvolia relishes the chance to hold centre stage, his scenes in act two are masterful in their ability to hold the audience and bring much-needed sympathy towards a usually stifled and unlikable character. Georgia Frost is fantastic as Viola, balancing the need to hold the story together and weave in some natural comedy. Purvi Parmar is a commanding Olivia, whose solo of Shakespeare’s Sister’s “Stay” is phenomenal. Stealing the show, however, is the double act of Jack Brown as Toby Belch and Reuben Johnson as Andrew Aguecheek. The pair portray the roles with such aplomb and pomp that they could (almost) be the bastard love children of Boris Johnson and Jack Whitehall.

It’s clear that Fairhurst and Not Too Tame love theatre and Shakespeare, their passion is evident, and this production of Twelfth Night will undoubtedly give those attending an enjoyable evening but at almost three hours long, one would argue that a little editing and pruning would make the piece even stronger.

Runs until 29 June 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Enjoyable Romp

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. 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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