Pros: Played for laughs, this company certainly know how to put on Shakespeare’s most well known comedy and keep the audience chuckling throughout the production.
Cons: A few too many script cuts result in some characters losing their depth. The themes of jealousy, loss, madness and self-indulgence do not come across so well… feels a tad rushed.
Permanently Bard are usually to be seen in pub gardens, entertaining the patrons in the open air but have now brought their production of Twelfth Night to The Rose, Bankside.
Twelfth Night is a play many people know the story of. However, for those who do not, here is a brief synopsis: Set in Illyria, a stranded Viola disguises herself as a man and is employed by Count Orsino, who she quickly falls in love with. Given the task of wooing Lady Olivia, Viola, now Cesario, accidentally makes Olivia fall in love with her instead. Meanwhile, Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s maid Maria and Sir Andrew Aguecheek take on the task of making the joyless and pompous Malvalio look the fool. They do this by convincing him Olivia is in love with him, but that he has a number of tasks to complete, all of which she will abhor, in order to cement her love for him. Elsewhere, Sebastian, Viola’s presumed dead brother, lands on Illyria and further mistaken identity ensues. Eventually, all ends happily ever after, except perhaps for the wronged Malvolio, as identities become clear. Orsino marries Viola, Olivia marries Sebastian, Maria marries Sir Toby and everyone is let out of jail.
Now on to this particular production. Greeted with house music at the start of the play, it is surprising that this is not a more modern version. In fact, other than this factor, it is very traditional with the cast being in Elizabethan costumes, not that this is in any way an issue – it is just a surprising mash up of genres.
The acting, overall was good, although some performances were occasionally a little over the top. Very much worth mentioning are Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Feste portrayed by Tim Welham and Cameron Harle respectively, both of whom really played their parts in a way which was comical and yet not too over the top. They worked well together, interacted with the audience and kept the action flowing. Welham is someone I would like to see in more comedy roles, while Feste and his brigade of fools in Maria, Sir Andrew and Sir Toby, was a nice addition.
Sir Toby’s eternally drunk status became a little tiresome. However, having considered the fact that this company are usually to be found in pub gardens, this makes more sense… Sir Toby plays his role as if he is part of the audience, so it makes more sense that he is portrayed, perhaps, as a regular patron of the pub – although I am not sure why Maria would ever want to be with this Sir Toby!
Another aspect which makes more sense in a beer garden is that there is no interval (for the purposes of ensuring the audience don’t wander off, presumably). Therefore some of the script has been cut and often felt rushed. On a cold November night, set in an archaeological site, this was actually quite welcome, but perhaps this could be arranged differently to ensure some of the best scenes aren’t dashed through with their meanings lost.
With the cuts, a seasoned Twelfth Night-goer may feel that something is missing. However, that aside, it is a good production with some strong acting. The large open, archeological site across from the balcony which the audience is in is used effectively and the costumes are beautiful.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Sean Turner
Box Office: 020 7261 9565
Booking Link: www.rosetheatre.org.uk
Booking Until: 30th November 2013