Melbourne Shakespeare Company bursts onto the scene once again with an all-singing, all-dancing performance of Bill Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
By Leeor Adar
With a previous season of Much Ado About Nothing in the gorgeous St Kilda Botanical Gardens at the beginning of summer 2017, it is lovely to see the troupe take their performance to Prahran’s equally stunning Victoria Gardens. Despite a little bit of frying by Melbourne’s sun, the performers managed to not just survive their high energy show in the heat, they honestly thrived.
The ensemble brings us one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, Twelfth Night, in another superbly costumed production. The production is clearly Euro-folk inspired, with musical numbers featuring knee-slapping beats with violin and accordion playing for added authenticity. So much of the enjoyment of Shakespeare’s comedies rests on the abilities of the cast. Director Jennifer Sarah Dean rallies around her some serious talent, and its great to see her cast and crew continue to return from production to production.
Rhiannon Irving continues to deliver fantastically inspired costuming, on this occasion with plenty of petticoats, corsets and lacy veils. It perfectly marries the eccentricities and slapstick nature of the play, and the actors certainly use the costumes to their advantage.
Twelfth Night is a shipwreck tale of which the lovers are star crossed through mistaken identity. There are remnants of Romeo & Juliet, if you consider a young man of noble birth loving a woman who does not return his love, only to be surprised by an unexpected passion. Of course, this is a comedy, and no cases of mistaken identity and devilish subplots result in any deaths.
Vocally Nicola Bowman is a knock out, and serenades as Feste with charm and cheek. Iopu Auva’a (Duke Orsino) and Saxon Gray (Sebastian) do credit to their roles with their strong vocals. I was particularly impressed with the show’s schemers, namely Annabelle Tudor’s Maria, Peter Tedford’s Sir Toby, Mitch Ralston’s Sir Andrew and Bridget Sweeney’s Fabian. So much of the plot comes second to the antics of this group; Tudor is a strong and instinctive performer, and uses her physicality and voice to great effect. Maria is an excellent contrast to her highly-strung lady, Olivia, who is played by Jacqueline Whiting in such a way that you’d think she was born to play this role.
An absolute stand out was Johnathan Peck’s Malvolio, a character which is easy to scorn, but which Peck turns into a laugh-out-loud spectacle. Peck’s physicality and comic timing have been evident from the Company’s previous productions but here he completely reigns.
I’ve come to expect high quality laughs from the Melbourne Shakespeare Company, and they certainly deliver in terms of their cast’s excellent sense of comedic timing and acting abilities. The Company always conveys a sense of unity and genuine joy in the work they do, which is no different on this occasion. The season was unfortunately cut two weeks short due to a resident’s complaints, and I genuinely hope the wonderful Company pushes past this misfortune and returns with another high-quality work.
Twelfth Night was performed from 2 – 4 March in the Victoria Gardens. Stay in touch with the Melbourne Shakespeare Company here.