Over the past year, I have developed a new appreciation for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. As a fan of his tragedies over his comedies, it would have to be a special play to make me love a comedy. But this tale of mishaps, cross dressing and love has begun to convert me.
Now, the idea of a version of Shakespeare’s comedy that has original songs made me somewhat sceptical, but as I often am, I was proven wrong. Directors Kwame Kwei-Armah & Oskar Eustis have created a fun-filled, musical fusion that grabs the audience and keeps us entertained.
I went to see this play at The Young Vic and was immediately struck by the Notting Hill Carnival staging that came out into the audience. Right from the first moment, you had actors on stage laughing, dancing, milling around and offering the audience food – always a big selling point. Then came the main event…
Gabrielle Brooks as Viola and Jonathan Livingstone as Antonio simply worked. They were great together. Brooks commanded the stage and was fantastically awkward when Livingstone was professing his love for Olivia (Natalie Dew) whilst setting up an extremely romantic situation for him and Viola (dressed as Cesario). However, the break away character that had me crying with laughter was Gerard Carey’s Malvolio. He was fantastic. I have never been so taken aback by a man in lycra whilst on a segway. His song ‘Count Malvolio’ was hilarious with his over-the-top mannerisms and pitch; it was stuck in my head for days.
Now, some of the songs were a little awkward, but once you got over the fact that they were breaking into song every five minutes and embraced the fun, it was brilliant. And considering I took a group of rather grumpy 14-16 year olds with me to see ‘Twelfth Night’, I was unsure of how they would react. They were laughing, eating the food at the start and talked continually about it on the journey home. That to me is that mark of a good production.
Congratulations to the cast and directors for a successful modern fusion of a classic comedy.