Director Jennifer Dick has chosen a 1960s setting for her interpretation, so the show is complete with bright colours and Carys Hobbs’ beautiful costumes.
Director Jennifer Dick has chosen a 1960s setting for her interpretation, so the show is complete with bright colours and Carys Hobbs’ beautiful costumes. It is also punctuated with highly amusing lip-synced renditions of 1960s’ hits. The company’s tradition of finding ways to break up the text with other things is well established, and as great an idea as it ever was. It really helps maintain a light, witty tone, and keeps people laughing throughout. So too, of course, do the cast. Stephanie McGregor’s Feste is hilarious, especially her brilliant lip-syning, while Kirk Bage as Sir Toby does the best comedy dancing I’ve seen in a very long time.
Interestingly, Dick has chosen to gender-flip the three couples, so we are given, for example, a male Viola and a female Duke Orsino. While this isn’t quite a fair exchange for the women (Viola and Olivia have a lot more to do in the play than their male counterparts), this is made up for by Dick’s decision to gender-flip two other roles so the women in the company aren’t too short on lines. The gender-flipping decision is a very good one. Emilie Patry’s Orsino is a delight, her performance fresh and sympathetic; Ryan Ferrie’s Olivia is a real show-stealer.
But it is Robert Elkin’s performance as Viola that really shows the wisdom of the decision. He is wonderful in the role. Without the aid of costume – Viola spends most of the play pretending to be a man – Elkin gives a thoroughly characterful, feminine performance which is subtle enough to allow you to enjoy the complexity of the gender roles without being invited to laugh at them. He gives a funny performance, but the jokes are Viola's jokes. We’re never invited to laugh at the cross-playing.
In all, this is a great start to the season. An accessible show with plenty of surprises, guaranteed to please.