REVIEW: Hilarious and imaginative ‘Twelfth Night’

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Loving it . . . Dunedin actors Julie Edwards (left) and Peter Hayden are enjoying being the senior actors in the Fortune Theatre's company, as they prepare for William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Fortune Theatre presents Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The endless adaptability of Shakespeare’s works underpins the Fortune Theatre’s delightfully bonkers production of Twelfth Night

Directed by Benjamin Henson and featuring a large, enthusiastic cast of experienced and emerging actors from the University of Otago’s Theatre Studies programme, this Twelfth Nightis bursting with quick-witted banter, physical comedy and some fantastic singing.

From the moment the audience arrives, the genial cast draws them into the experience, wandering the aisles, chatting to friends and singing drinking songs.

Almost without transition, the play is suddenly under way, and we are immersed in the weird and wonderful world of Illyria, where identical twins Viola (Frith Horan) and Sebastian (Kate Johnstone) have washed up after a shipwreck.

The inhabitants have wooing and mischief on their minds in equal measure, giving rise to much teasing, taunting and trickery.

Twelfth Night is full of meaty roles and the cast makes the most of every opportunity.

Of particular note are Fortune artistic director Jonathon Hendry as the stuffy Malvolio, who suffers humiliation at the hands of the scheming Maria (Julie Edwards), and the drunken Sir Toby (Peter Hayden). Bryony Skillington is wickedly funny as the trouble-making “fool” Feste, while Horan gives a nicely nuanced performance as the disguised Viola.

Cherie Moore is in fine voice as the staunchly independent Olivia, while Jonathan Martin is delightful as the bumbling Sir Andrew.

Equally strong are the remaining cast members Joshua Cramond (Orsino), Johnston (Sebastian), Orion Care Clark (Antonio), and Shaun Swain (Valentine).

On stage throughout, musical director Liam Donnelly accompanies the songs, remaining serene even when he has cast members all over him or a codpiece in his face.

Designed by Peter King and built by King and interns Dominic Houlihan and Shannon Van Rooijen, the set cleverly evokes a crumbling Italian-style manor.

Lighting design by Ariana Robertson and Martyn Roberts is subtle and effective.

Costumes designed by Maryanne Wright Smyth underline the slightly mad overtones of the play and are mostly successful. However, there is one aspect this reviewer just didn’t get – why has Orsino been left without trousers?

All in all, the Fortune Theatre and Theatre Studies have created a hilarious and imaginative version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that is hugely entertaining.