St Ann's Well Gardens in Hove was the perfect idyllic setting for Drama Impact's version of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Although the unpredictable weather threatened to stop the show before it started, the sun shone on this merry band of players, led by director and performer David Houston.
It really felt like we were in Shakespeare's England and not today's era.
The first thing to note about this version of Twelfth Night was the immaculate research and detail that Drama Impact had put into every aspect of the show. The programme was well thought out, with easy to absorb bits of history behind the inspiration of the play itself, as well as how Shakespeare's family tied into it. In this instance, part of the research carried out suggested that Shakespeare in his own way was saying goodbye to his son Hamnet (part of a set of twins who died very young) as he explored the aspect of twins being separated in the play. As well as this, all the costumes were in traditional Jacobean style that would very likely have been worn on stage, from the hats and pantyhose down to the type of swords that would have been used in stage combat, as well as the traditional musical instruments played by the actors who had experience in music. It really felt like we were in Shakespeare's England and not today's era.
But it was the engaging performances (including extremely well thought out doubling up of roles), as well as the chemistry between some of the pairings that made this show one of the best versions of Twelfth Night to date. One example being Orsino and Viola/Cesario (played by Richard Lewellyn and Lillie Prowse) who displayed the seemingly unlikely pairing with a simple emotional connection that made you want to scream out the truth and see them get together. Their ease with each other was touching to watch and brought a more innocent aspect to this relationship as Viola hid her identity whilst falling for Orsino.
But the scene stealing moment was Christopher Poke's discerning Malvolio donning the yellow cross gartered stockings in order to win Olivia's heart (played by Joanna Nevin). The gradual change from someone who maintained control and order to a love stricken sweetheart was not only comedic, to the sheer manicness of trying to woo this lady was so mesmerising and child-like that we felt sorry for him. But it was Nevin's double take in horror that made this comedy scene extremely well rounded and vibrant.
Whether you are a fan of the Bard, or are new to him, Drama Impact introduced new audiences to Shakespeare's work with reactions including 'this is beautiful' and 'I have never seen Shakespeare before. I am really getting into it'. This version of Twelfth Night was the perfect play to bring joy and magic to the Brighton Fringe this year and we hope to see more from Drama Impact soon.