Twelfth Night at The Hope Theatre Review

Twelfth Night? With only four actors?! I’m interested! It can’t have been an easy rehearsal process, but it was definitely a great show. Thick as Thieves theatre company had success last year with The Tempest, and this production certainly didn’t disappoint.

Twelfth Night is the story of Viola who washes ashore on an island called Illyria in a shipwreck which she assumes has drowned her twin brother, Sebastian. She poses as a servant man, Cesario, for the Count Orsino and quickly falls in love with him. It is her unhappy errand of delivering messages personally to the count’s desire, Olivia, who then makes Cesario the object of her affection. The sub-plot involves the hilarious drunkard Sir Toby Belch and his comrades in a merry tale of trickery and deceit.

So how does this company go about multi-roling the many characters in this play? Each actor displayed strong vocals and physicality for each part as well as a new garment to wear, which enable us as an audience to follow along with ease.

There is a cleverness to the start of this production involving direct address. As the audience walk in, we are greeted by the actors themselves, not the characters they are portraying. I always find it a bit of a cheap gag to address the audience in character and this was very refreshing. This was actually the stylistic choice that I enjoyed most from this production. There was no attempt to hide the fact that there were only four actors - each one changed their identifying garment to the side of the thrust staging and occasionally were speaking their lines while they were doing so! This didn’t detract away from the magic of it at all; if anything it meant that the pacing never suffered, which I am always a fan of.

We then blast into a wonderfully accompanied song composed by David Knight, which not only creates a sense of ambience, but also acted a brilliant springboard into the famous first line of the play: “If music be the food of love, play on.” Normally we have a song and a jig at the end of the play but this worked equally well.

A mention must be given to each actor in this production. Nicky Diss (also the director - a woman of many talents) had a skilful subtlety to her Viola which juxtaposed triumphantly with the brash and vulgar Sir Toby.

Thomas Judd with his endearing Sir Andrew and charming Orsino worked well with his fellow cast members and with the audience whilst still creating clever differences between the characters.

Oliver Lavery portrayed an understated Malvolio which I liked but felt that he needed to be more pompous in order to deserve the tricks that Sir Toby and company play on him. He also could have pushed the comedic character of Feste a little more to get a greater contrast between the two, but overall a likeable performance.

Madeleine MacMahon did a tremendous job playing four parts. Her cheeky, Cockney Maria was excellent and her nasal, upper-class Olivia were my two particular favourites and she suited them so well. Not to mention her effortless delivery and razor sharp comic timing.

One thing that can be said for ALL the actors involved was that their lines were delivered with grace, ease and above all clarity. Something so important when performing Shakespeare.

This production has truly had greatness thrust upon it and I would recommend that you get down there before it closes on 30th April!

(c) 2016 Molly Miller
Director - Nicky Diss
Stage Manager - Ariel Harrison
Lighting Designer - Kirsten Buckmaster
Producer - Thomas Judd
Composer/MD - David Knight

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