Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe
For Emma Rice’s last hurrah at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, it was decided that Twelfth Night should be on the books, and that the controversial yet daring artistic director should direct the play. Her production is a modernistic voyage of gender fluidity and musical extravagance. This is a sure sign that Rice has remained ever defiant in her ideas, and even if it means chopping certain scenes up, the entertainment factor is key.
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night tells the story of two twins, Sebastian and Viola, who are shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria (Scotland in this adaptation). Believing her brother is dead, Viola disguises herself as a servant boy working under Duke Orsino. The Duke is deeply in love with Olivia, who falls for the disguised Viola, and from then on a spell of “midsummer madness” falls over the characters as they seek to obtain their loves’ affections.
Straight from the off we are absorbed into Rice’s world, as the cast, aboard the SS Unity, belt out a rendition of Sister Sledge’s “We are Family”. This musical element is ongoing throughout the play, and quite often holds little relevance to the dialogue happening on stage. If someone were to say this production were called “Twelfth Night – The Musical”, one certainly wouldn’t query it; however, the introduction of this element provides a large number of laughs and provokes a feel-good factor around the piece. Aside from the rigging of the ship, in true Globe fashion, the set is very bare yet mobile, leaving the responsibility to the actors to fill the stage.
Despite the questionable lack of dialogue in the play, it is the cast who provides the real entertainment for the evening. Each member milks their lines without over-egging the pudding, and aside from fantastic performances, including Anita-Joy Uwajeh’s Olivia and the booming Le Gateau Chocolat as a very different Feste, it is the comedic characters who raise the spirits of the audience and also the pace of the dialogue. Marc Antolin’s eccentrically camp Aguecheek and Tony Jayawardena’s Sir Toby light up the stage during their scenes, the actors successfully portraying these men in a way not perceived before, whilst making them fit beautifully into the script. Malvolio, played by Katy Owen, is a revelation; the boyish, moustached actress is the star of the show, and brings the steward into perspective, revealing how truly tragic the character is.
Twelfth Night may well not be one for the traditionalists, but for those looking for a hoot, a boogie, and an easily digestible adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s finest works, then look no further.
Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Twelfth Night is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 18th May until 5th August 2017, for further information or to book visit here.