Twelfth Night, Bristol Old Vic, 3***, Cormac Richards

BRISTOL OLD VIC – 17 November 2018

TWELFTH NIGHT by William Shakespeare


2 hours 50 minues – 1 interval

Bristol Old Vic Box Office – 0117987 7877


REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 18 October 2018


Director Wils Wilson says “By calling the play ‘Twelfth Night or What You Will’, Shakespeare has basically called the his play ‘Big Party – or Whatever You Like’”. It’s an interesting angle and this joint production from the Bristol Old Vic and the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh (where the first performances took place some weeks ago) doesn’t old back on the party side of things.

Firmly set in the care-free 1960s/1970s, a group of friends appear to be having an endless party of music, dancing, drinking and probably a few other things beside. Set in a dilapidated country house, the friends find a copy of Shakespeare’s play and decide to re-enact it for themselves. Loon pants and very high platform shoes are just the start of it!

At the centre of the play is shipwrecked Viola, looking for her twin brother who was lost at sea along with her. Viola spends much of the play disguised as a young man; which originally, of course, would have been a young man playing a young woman, disguised as a young man. In this production gender knows no bounds and the director has played fast and loose with the idea. So, Sir Toby Belch becomes Lady Tobi. Orsino is played as a man, but by a female. Sebastian, Viola’s brother is also played by a female. It all gets a little confused.

The production is full of music which is perfectly appropriate. But there too much I think. It puts the play on hold. The first hour seemed to lack focus and it dragged significantly and only got really going when the shenanigans of Lady Tobi and Sir Andrew took hold. That said, the music is all well produced and played on a myriad of instruments.

The set is wonderful. The crumbling edifice with holes in the walls and staircase – which provide excellent entrances and exits for the characters. The myriad of costumes often gives the audience some kind of psychedelic trip – they are excellent, fun and imaginative Huge credit to Ana Inés Jabares-Pita for designing both.

Colette Dalal Tchantcho offers a hugely impressive Orsino – a no nonsense man – authoritative, stern and with a wonderful timbre of voice. Jade Ogugua gives a likeable and mischievous turn as Viola and Lisa Dwyer Hogg an aloof Olivia. It is the trio of Feste, Belch and Aguecheek that often bring the play alight and there is no difference here. Dylan Read (Feste) has something of the Marty Feldman about him as he morphs from one mad version of himself to another while Dawn Sievewright (Lady Tobi) has a field day – throwing everything but the grand piano (one of the most, and best used props) at her role. For me, Guy Hughes just steals it all as the enormously tall (helped by high platforms) Sir Andrew. He is very funny and does completely drunk very well indeed. Not far behind is Christopher Green as the suited and bowler-hatted Malvolio. Pernickety, irritating and humourless. This is a lovely part given an excellent performance. I always have a problem with the cruelty that Malvolio suffers – it’s pretty vile and the production doesn’t let him off the hook!

It is a fun production certainly and full of innovation, but I wanted to be drawn in to the performance much earlier. As a result of the frequent music interludes, the pacing suffered and the comedy lost momentum. For the first time viewer the gender swapping would have been utterly bewildering and so I wonder how necessary all of it was.

A curates egg of a production, which while enjoyable left me with the feeling that it could have been so much better.



Malvolio – Christopher Green

Olivia – Lisa Dwyer Hogg

Maria – Joanna Holden

Andrew Aguecheek – Guy Hughes

Curio – Meilyr Jones

Captain – Aly Macrae

Viola – Jade Ogugua

Antonio/Valentine – Brian James O’Sullivan

Feste – Dylan Read

Lady Tobi – Dawn Sievewright

Orsino – Colette Dalal Tchantcho

Sebastian – Joanne Thomson


Director – Wils Wilson

Designer – Ana Inés Jabares-Pita

Lighting – Kai Fisher

Composer – Meilyr Jones

Sound Design – Gregory Clarke

Photo Credit – Mihaela Bodlovic


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