Drama Barn: Twelfth Night

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Watching a Shakespeare production outside of the Globe always makes me slightly apprehensive and going to see Twelfth Night was no exception. Directors and actors often have the temptation to rely on the written works too much, to put too much emphasis onto the playwright which often veils the talent of the actors. Therefore, taking on a student-led adaption of one of Shakespeare’s greatest works was no mean feat and consequently I held low expectations. However once I passed the threshold of the Drama Barn, I knew that I had been heralded into a Shakespearean world. The set complemented the play well; a cluttered naval office on one side, and an elegant garden on the other. The naval office which was adorned with well-thumbed books contrasted with the ivy-ridden wall of the garden, and perhaps served as a greater metaphor for the play: the challenge against internal and external perception. The two sets were only divided by a change in light, which enabled the cast members to flow effortlessly from one scene to another. However, the military context of the play left me fairly baffled as it was solely portrayed through the naval uniforms and some hints of mannerisms, which were not strong enough to sustain the context.

The energetic cast worked well to tackle the key concerns of the play, the most prominent being sexual inversion. This concern was visibly symbolised by the humorous stick-on moustaches, expanding on a combination of Chaplinesque and slapstick humour, which most characters seemed to become. At times this was tiresome, perhaps relying on cheap laughs too much; however there were some moments of extreme hilarity which had redeeming factors. The cast managed to deliver all lines with such energy that their sheer enjoyment was easily transferred to the audience. All members of the cast, especially the minor characters, put so much vigour into the production that it was propelled from one scene to the other at an enjoyable and lively pace.

©Roseanna Brear

One of the most commendable features of this production was the use of new techniques to portray Shakespeare’s dramatic features such as the soliloquies and the reading of letters. The most admirable performance was by Richard Spears who played Sir Andrew Aguecheek where he rather wonderfully mimicked a reading of a letter. Spears was central to the energy throughout the production, however this was also the result of the equally skilled Toby King, playing Toby Belch. This resulted in their shared moments being the most enjoyable and refreshing to watch. Another interesting area of this production was the use of song by Feste, performed by Laura Griffin who played the difficult character exceptionally well. It should be noted that Griffin was the only character to break the fourth wall, which gave further depth to her complex character.

The confident and strong performances of Orsino performed by Ross Cronshaw, Helen Peatfield as Olivia, and Catherine Bennett as Viola, should also be praised. In particular, Peatfield had some wonderful facial expressions, as did Peter Marshall who played Malvolio. Marshall’s performance was exceptional; he managed to control the character very well, especially during the prison scene. All of the cast members were extremely important to the success of this production, their energy and enjoyment was obvious, and at times really did Shakespeare’s work justice.

The only flaw of this adaption of Twelfth Night was the lack of audience members. The splendid cast of Twelfth Night deserved to be watched by more people, and hopefully on Sunday's performance they will. Aside from some disagreements with the military context, this really is a wonderful adaption which I thoroughly enjoyed. Don’t miss out, as audience members will surely have ‘greatness thrust upon them’.

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