TWELFTH NIGHT | London, Southwark Playhouse

Director Anna Girvan’s bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night transports Shakespeare’s drama of double-crossing confusions from the mythic realm, to Illyria: the music festival. As the audience enters, wristbands are dispensed and performers introduce themselves while casually warming up.

With its majority female cast and playful tone, this show does one thing so many productions of Shakespeare fail to do: it makes the text accessible and clear. While the extensive multi-role playing runs the risk of baffling an audience already contending with identical twins and plenty of mistaken identity, this is dealt with, in the main, with style and grace.

The acting is solid throughout. Set pieces and songs like Arhuan Galieva’s impressive deadpan clowning as Feste, and her moving ‘love song’, add texture and depth to the action. Moreover, the intelligent incorporation of British Sign Language into the fabric of the play throws a totally unexpected (and often unexpectedly illuminating) light on moments in the play where words alone are no longer enough.

The sense of play amongst the performers is palpable, with a wit and relaxation that has the audience laughing with them. This is a show of space hoppers and super-soakers, clowning, audience participation, rainbow coloured wellies– and rather a lot of running around. However, at points, interludes and stage business risk obscuring some lines and the subtler nuances of the storytelling. This production works best when the admirably streamlined text is allowed to breathe.

Grab your Illyria 2019 tickets online until 9 February 2019.

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