TWELFTH NIGHT: William Shakespeare.
Illyria, Tour Information www.illyria.uk.com.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval.
Review: Alan Geary: Newstead Abbey: I5 July 2011.
Even the peacocks joined in the fun.
It’s Illyria’s twentieth year and they’re back with a summer favourite. The main strength of this Twelfth Night is the quality of the acting. That, combined with direction from Oliver Gray, and of course the play itself, ensures an ideal evening of open-air theatre. In the acoustically impressive grounds of Newstead Abbey even the peacocks joined in the fun.
There are five actors, the same number, we’re told, as Shakespeare’s own company when it ventured out of London.
Miriam Jay Allwright is a comically voracious Olivia and, less successfully, plays Sir Toby in a moustache (except when she would otherwise need to be in two places at once). Alistair Chisholm is splendid as Feste; he’s also the main musician. Music is a very significant element; Come Away, played by the whole company, is particularly good.
Martin Clark, as Malvolio with a prissily Puritan Scots accent (Edinburgh to boot), rightly, evokes real pity. And Lawrence Kemp, a bit too boyish as Orsino, has the audience on his side as a bespectacled Aguecheek. The outstanding Emmeline Prior gives two typically spirited performances as Viola, unconvincingly disguised as Cesario, and as Maria the maid. Prior has superb voice control.
Shakespeare’s text is packed with well-known sayings – and of course some outrageous innuendo. Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that the whole company, presumably for projection’s sake, have a tendency to address the audience instead of the appropriate character.
The scenes between Olivia and Viola are especially well done. There’s a lot of comic sexual ambiguity there, as indeed there is in the Orsino/Viola scenes. And there’s a beautifully worked out and choreographed ending.
An almost non-set from a production possibly three years back, simply a black curtain through which characters appear and disappear, is used very effectively.
Miriam Jay Allwright.
Director/Music Co-ordinator: Oliver Gray.
Costume: Pat Farmer.