Twelfth Night

Iris Theatre’s promenade production of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night is a sumptuous romp around and inside the magnificent St Paul’s Actors’ Church in Covent Garden which, whilst not quite adhering to the great Bard’s more intricate comedy twists, still delights and enchants with its merry mischief on many levels.

However, whilst the ragtag trio just pip the rest to the post, Director Vik Sivalingam’s casting is sublime, with all the cast feeling right at home in their characters - leaving us to get stuck into the intricacies of Shakepeare’s mischievous comedy.

The play, which sees twin brother and sisters Sebastian and Viola separated after a violent storm and all manner of mayhem ensue from Viola’s decision to disguise herself as a man back on land is brought to life in the gardens and within London’s 17th Century Church. As a glorious summer promenade after every few scenes we’re invited to walk along to our next snatched seats to catch a glimpse of the following mirth. Underneath a tree, perched amongst the rose bushes or, during the play’s climax, on the pews inside the imposing church itself – each movement, although occasionally held up by slower paced audience members, adds to the bewitching quality of Shakespeare’s identity swapping play.

Said play’s heroine Viola is played with confident straightness by Pepter Lunkuse, but it is the bumbling pair of drunken Sir Toby (Robert Maskell) and foppish fool Sir Aguecheek (Henry Wryley-Birch) that steal the show. That is, when it isn’t being stolen by the wretched and largely hilarious mishaps of Malvolio (Tony Bell), whose strained Yorkshire tones and stuffed belly give a more bumbling and less prissy insight into the play’s misunderstood antagonist than in previous iterations and portrayals.

However, whilst the ragtag trio just pip the rest to the post, Director Vik Sivalingam’s casting is sublime, with all the cast feeling right at home in their characters - leaving us to get stuck into the intricacies of Shakepeare’s mischievous comedy.

It’s a beautiful, wistful setting for a text that is often drunk on its own tomfoolery. Benjamin Polya’s lighting is rich and dreamy, with lights poking out from trees or slowly dimming to darkness inside St Paul’s itself, as nature’s own light gradually fades out around us. Composer Harry Blake brings us into and out of scenes with a gathering of accordions, ukuleles and hummed notes as we walk, and in the summer glow it really does feel like waltzing into a fairy-tale.

The only slight trip in this otherwise fun frolic is that supposed twins Sebastian and Viola look very much nothing alike even beneath matching cloaks and hats – fine and inconsequential for most of the venture, until we’re supposed to believe that the rest of the characters can’t tell them apart. Nevertheless, it’s a minor point for a well-known tale and one that’s told as well and dressed as prettily as Iris Theatre’s Twelfth Night.

Reviews by Laura Cress

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King Lear with Sheep

★★★
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★★★★
St Paul's Church, Covent Garden

Twelfth Night

★★★★
International Anthony Burgess Foundation / Underground Venues

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★★★★
Arcola Theatre

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★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In the fantastical Kingdom of Illyria, the peace of a grieving Countess and a heartsick Duke is disturbed by a pair of shipwrecked lovers, a lazy drunk, a vain pedant, a cowardly fool and a cunning maid. Tricks and subterfuge lead to unforeseen consequences; but then ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’, in this, the most loved of Shakespeare’s comic plays.

Iris Theatre’s next classical play follows a long line of successful summer productions including Off West Award-nominated Richard III in 2014 and Julius Caesar in 2013.

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