by William Shakespeare.
Wadham College Gardens Parks Road OX1 3PN To 15 August 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 10 Aug Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 305305
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 July.
Twelfth Night as they like it.
Another summer, another crop of open-air productions in Oxford. Posters offer intriguing contrasts. Hamlet and Blithe Spirit appear side-by-side on a billboard – as unlikely a coupling of temperaments as could be.
Barely a half-mile apart, two Oxford regulars provide a fascinating chance to see how malleable Shakespearean comedy can be, and how alike plays can be under surface differences. Creation Theatre updates As You Like It to 1940s wartime France. Also defying the English climate with open-air Shakespeare, Oxford Shakespeare Company locate Illyria in a traveller’s camp. The only living accommodation is a caravan – its doors and windows especially used with comic inventiveness.
The dramatic precedent is Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem. There’s no single voice in Shakespeare’s play as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in Butterworth’s, but the idea of a disruptive society living by its own rules here is much as six years ago in Jerusalem.
Nicholas Green’s production makes clear it’s not a healthy situation. Most of the Illyrians have some facial mark – which all clear-up after Viola’s invigorating presence kicks them back into a purposeful life.
This may not be the subtlest Shakespeare, but it ensures its resources are underwritten by a resourcefulness that makes the evening – given climatic cooperation – enjoyable. And it’s annually evident it has to make the show accessible for young people who might not know much Shakespeare, or indeed much English, given Oxford’s place for tourism and educational parties from round the world.
In these circumstances it’s a tribute to the company that their productions regularly suggest fresh ideas, sometimes in unexpected places. Like Marie Fortune’s Valentine, peering through thick spectacles with a flat-toned surprise at life, and a clear crush on her boss Orsino. And there’s particular interest in the usually subservient scenes between Viola and Orsino, thanks to Alice Coles’ expressive detail and the strong-voiced Orsino of David Alwyn, emotionally vulnerable in anger as in yearning.
Amid Illyria’s initial inertia, James Lavender’s intelligently-played Malvolio, tooled-up with IT equipment seems the conscientious type who would lap-up government and media tirades against the benefits claimants who are the likely successors of the hangers-on around Olivia’s household.
Orsino: David Alwyn.
Viola: Alice Coles.
Sir Toby Belch: William Findley.
Valentine/Maria/Sebastian: Marie Fortune.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: George Haynes.
Malvolio/Antonio/Sea Captain: James Lavender.
Feste/Officer: Rober Madeley.
Olivia: Molly Roberts.
Director/Designer: Nicholas Green.
Lighting: Anthony Doran.
Composer: Nick Lloyd Webber.
Choreographer: Steven Harris.
Costume: Adrian Lillie.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.
Assistant choreographer: Jen Farrell.