***** Review: Twelfth Night

UoB graduates put on an incredible performance of ‘Twelfth Night’ in Stratford


Last year, two UoB graduates, Christa Harris and Lucy Lee started up their own theatre company, The Chrysalis Collective.

As part of the Royal Shakespeare Company Open Stages, they put on their debut production of Twelfth Night at the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Olivia, Viola and the hilarious Maria

The acting in this production was impeccable. Lucy Lee, who played Olivia and co-founded the company, effectively portrayed the stern countess in her earlier scenes, however when she fell in love with Viola (the excellent and amusing Phoebe Brown) she displayed a softness of character and brought more humour to the role, displaying her versatility as an actor.

In an interesting directorial decision, Christa Harris allowed Olivia to discover that Viola was in fact a woman early on in the play, so she was aware that she had romantic feelings for another woman. However, Harris said that this was to emphasize the theme of forbidden love, rather than an “exploration of lesbianism”.

Man? Woman? I still love you!

For someone who has already seen several professional productions of Twelfth Night, I can honestly say I was not disappointed in the slightest. Set in the 1950s, this performance was full of music, dancing and beautiful costumes. There was a live band on stage, who also acted throughout the show. The musical director, Hal Geller was also the lead guitarist and played the role of Antonio! Bill Pasterfield, who played Orsino, was also the drummer of the band. The play really seemed to lend itself to having a live band, with lines such as ‘if music be the food of love, play on’ directed at the musicians.

Sebastian and Olivia looking loved up

This may seem a rather boring compliment, but I feel like I have to mention the slickness of the scene changes. Slow and clunky scene changes are something that can really make a production look amateur. However, the ones in this production were filled with ‘50s style dancing and music, which made it look extremely professional and kept the audience entertained throughout. Similarly, the band kept playing during the interval and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Christopher Neels) struck up conversation with audience members before the show and remained in character in the interval, drunkenly stumbling around the corridors of the theatre.

Count Orsino on the drums

'If music be the food of love...'

The comedy of the play was brought to the forefront, with the drunkard Sir Toby Belch (Bernard Hall), Maria (Charlie Reilly), Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Feste (Chazz Redhead). Redhead frequently joined the band to sing and Reilly performed the wonderful, ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love?’ as an encore. Redhead sported some hilarious costumes, at one point he seemed to be dressed as a gardener/scarecrow, which certainly added to the humour of the play. And of course, the scene where Malvolio (Keith Maddern) tries to flirt with Olivia, while dressed in yellow stockings and cross garters had the audience in stitches.

Malvolio getting stitched up

A very alarmed Olivia

Twelfth Night was performed 13th-17th May 2014.


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