The Duke of Illyria, Orsino, is madly and unrequitedly in love with the Lady Olivia. His servant, Viola, masquerading as the masculine footman Cesario, declares his love to Olivia and unfortunately gains the lady’s favour for him-herself. Hilarity ensues. Twelfth Night is possibly Shakespeare’s greatest comedy that unfortunately loses its comic tone in a performance that modernises the play. I felt that the performers performed well but did little else to make the characters their own or bring Illyria to life in Queen’s Park.
What is so damningly wrong about the Such Stuff Theatre Company’s interpretation of Twelfth Night is that the humorous flavour of the comedy is manhandled during its directional distribution to the actors; all characters should be equally centred around the comic core of Twelfth Night and represent it duly. Although the play concerns the love affairs of the protagonists and the mischievous shenanigans of the servants which act as a subplot, Twelfth Night is essentially an ensemble piece. I wondered if Feste’s singing and melodies on the guitar were too seriously distracting for a play that must keep a comical, rhythmic beat flowing, whereas these musical outbursts could be more fitting on an indie stage in a different Brighton venue; the lower class female characters spoke with an unnerving, brassy Eastenders accent that distracted and annoyed me to no end, and Olivia and Viola’s meetings were too solemn, too claustrophobically shrouded in melodrama and slacking in pace, that they could have hopped over and become one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The cast failed to value the comic centre of Twelfth Night, thus leaving characters like Sir Andrew and Malvolio who played on the humour eccentrically and demurely respectively, subsequently disaccorded with each other and the overall tone of the play.
The price is £12 to watch Twelfth Night at Queen’s Park—however, you can stand behind the two foot fence at the back of the designated audience space and watch it for free. As well, the usher will give up trying to discourage those who haven’t paid waltzing in and out of the open auditorium area, leaving paying audience members fuming and agitated. I also watched the fantastic production of Twelfth Night by the Festival Shakespeare Company at St Ann’s Well Gardens a few weeks ago that left standards high, yet unfortunately unmatched.