Twelfth Night with a Cast of Comedians at London Wonderground
Twelfth Night with a Cast of Comedians at the Southbank Centre’s Wonderground – featuring theatre group Fight in the Dog and directed by Matt Bulmer and Liam Williams – is a unique comedy house-style rendition of the beloved Shakespeare farce. With an excellent live band (John Bull & The Bandits) playing throughout the performance, extra additions of innovative slapstick humour, such as characters hiding in rubbish bins, and cabaret style dancing as a finale, the overall impression is Shakespeare meets Saturday Night Live.
In contemporary dress, and perpetually carrying and opening cans of Foster’s lager, the actors are engaging, professional and first-rate. Emma Sidi’s Maria is particularly well-played, Matilda Wnek is a convincing Viola, Lolly Adefope is impressively multi-faceted as Valentine, the police officers and the priest. Tessa Coates’s haughty love-struck Olivia is effectively amusing and Alistair Roberts is hilarious as Olivia’s oddball steward, Malvolio. With an unusual set that includes refuse bins, discarded pizza boxes and beer cans, the atmosphere is irreverent, jovial and slapstick. One of the funniest moments in last night’s performance was impromptu, when a bin containing a hidden conspirator accidentally toppled over and one of the players had to slink across the floor and rescue him.
It is always interesting to view the many different versions of Twelfth Night, and Bulmer and William’s is certainly of the more eclectic variety, with its inclusion of music, dancing and a crazy set. Opening with the sound of the sea, the farcical and the camp set the tone as an apparent rubbish collector (Lolly Adefope) discovers the unconscious Viola who has washed ashore. When Viola, disguised as a man called Cesario, is asked to help woo Olivia for, in this piece, a rather feeble Orsino, the arrogant Olivia is so overcome with desire for Cesario that she can barely stand upright, and the effect is ridiculously funny. Her goofy steward, Malvolio, prancing around in nothing but bright yellow skivvies and socks after he is tricked into believing his mistress loves him – after which he is locked in a refuse bin – is preposterous and uproarious.
Although creative and fun, the piece as a whole could use a little more work to make it a tighter production, as here Shakespeare’s humour is not fully utilised, and the laughs in the audience were relatively moderate. However, as a whole Twelfth Night with a Cast of Comedians is artful, entertaining and enjoyable.
Twelfth Night with a Cast of Comedians was on at London Wonderground on 18th July 2016.