Pros: Energetic performances and a beautiful secret garden outdoor venue. A great night out for all the family.
Cons: The first half of the play was very long and the audience was starting to get restless.
Twelfth Night is Shakespeare’s gender-bending comedy of love-triangles, deception and mayhem. It all begins when twins Viola (Pepter Lunkuse) and Sebastien (Henry Wyrley-Birch) are shipwrecked on the island of Ileria. Believing her brother to be dead Viola disguises herself as a man and sets out on an adventure that sees her inadvertently winning the heart of the headstrong Olivia (Olivia Onyehara). Whilst in drag she falls in love with Orsino (Julian Moore-Cook) who is in turn in love with Olivia. Added to the love triangle are a few comical drunken foils in the shape of Sir Toby (Robert Maskell) and the Duke Augecheek who is also trying to win Olivia’s hand.
Despite the potentially confusing story, and my co-reviewer and I not knowing the play particularly well; we were able to follow it all the way through with ease because the actors delivered their lines with such expression and commitment. The venue is entirely outdoors and with quite a large audience spread out in different locations the lines could easily have been lost but the actors skillfully moved themselves and all projected lines with such clarity that we heard it all. Thanks to their energetic and passionate performances I was engaged throughout the two and a half hour performance despite not being a huge lover of Shakespeare myself.
Performed in promenade, the audience is sucked into the action from the offset and shepherded with great skill from area to area in the garden from act to act without interrupting the flow of the play. The sets are simple but effective making clever use of the plants, trees, church benches and the church itself along with a few clever set pieces such as halves of boats and festoons of fairy lights to set the scene.
I went to see the summer play at the Iris Theatre for the first time last year and was blown away by the church and garden, the vibrant performances of the cast and the clever staging. It was just as magical this year. Again this year the venue is the star of the show. A quaint little church with a secret garden tucked away in the heart of bustling Covent Garden. It is so sheltered from London life you almost believe you could be in the English countryside (apart from the odd helicopter zooming overhead). As the light fades the venue really comes into its own with twinkling fairy lights hanging from the trees to light the action.
The only criticism to add here is that the first half is a lot longer than the second and so we were getting a bit fidgety and parched by the time the interval came. The two halves could have done with being broken up more evenly to make it more comfortable for the audience.
This is a really great adaption of a Shakespeare play that’s easy to follow even for those new to the famous storyline. It’s a great night out for all the family and highly recommended; the cast are excellent, the venue is beautiful and you couldn’t ask for better weather to go and see an outdoor play so book your tickets quick before it sells out.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Vik Sivalingham
Producer: Tanja Pagnuco
Booking Until: 24 July 2015
Booking Link: www.iristheatre.com/event/twelfth-night/