Twelfth Night – The Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Director: Wils Wilson

Designer: Ana Inés Jabares-Pita

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Devoid of constraints, Shakespeare for his faults, is a master in weaving a timeless narrative. His creations serve both as triumphs of art but also templates. Templates which may have a set structure or character but are completely adaptable. Once lacking in diversity, Shakespeare’s text is pushed by Wils Wilson into stretching Twelfth Night’s themes of gender-identity, hedonism and sexual attraction.

Constructed exquisitely through relationships, Twelfth Night is less about narrative than its players. When realising the cast of rogues before us, it’s no wonder it conjures up one of the most humane rummages into Shakespearean relationships. The first twenty minutes require the brain to be awake or at least half pickled but it is worth paying attention.

Twins Viola and Sebastian become separated following a shipwreck. In the ensuing chaos, Viola is convinced to disguise herself as a eunuch and employ herself in the service of Duke Orsino. Meanwhile, her brother, Sebastian the performer’s gender-flipped by Joanne Thomson is rescued by a sea captain. The ensuing confusions of identity, the fluidity of the relationships and added levels brought about by Wilson transition Twelfth Night into an almost original piece.

Not particularly known for its gender-blind, or even equal casting, Shakespeare is turned around as several producers see fit to do. About bloody time too. With such a rich core surrounding the concepts of androgyny and attraction Twelfth Night is fitting with this wealthier female cast. Without which, robbing us blindly of Dawn Stevewright as now cousin Tobi, opposed to Uncle, would have been a misstep. Her ability to channel Julie Walters, a rubber face of comedic prowess enviable by all.

Once more though it is the Fool who robs us of our wits, beguiling the senses into following his every move. Dylan Read extends the androgynous behaviour to an entirely new plane. Contorting his body to become both entertainment and instrument. It is Feste who detects the truth unfold before the rest. A role the infamous Malvolio wishes shared. Christopher Green noted experimental performer may position Malvolio in what may seem the customary male role. Though Act 2 delivers a fresh triumphant level.

Aesthetically, drenched in a plethora of notable references from Rocky Horror to Bowie, Ana Inés Jabares-Pita creates a rich environment. A decaying manor, being reclaimed by nature as the party goers love, lust and strut in their 70s – early 80s inspired designs. The time of hedonism, acceptance of change but mainly of the vibrantly vomit-inducing colours.

Costume experimentations – rich purple gowns and Grace Jones inspired pieces to help push the reversed role casting. The ‘traditional’ masculine nature of Olivia’s suit, the neutrality of pieces and of course Malvolio’s cross-gartered yellow stockings all speak to Jabares-Pita’s inspirations. So too is the music of the time, many lyrics provided by Shakespeare himself, updated or warped. All performed exceptionally – fitting to the tone and character, further pushing the layers we are familiar with.

Join the soiree, plunge into the madness before you and neck that drink. Wilson has weaved gender fluidly throughout the production, to a sublime level where the choices are intelligent, methodical but merry – nothing is coerced. Gender is but a construct for many, a line drawn to separate character and relation, but for the Twelfth Night an illusion played upon for frivolous fun and commentary. A rousing success delivering rambunctious debauchery and yellow stockings to all.

Runs until 6 October 2018 | Image: Mihaela Bodlovic


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The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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