Twelfth Night – Abbey Theatre – Review

Twelfth Night Abbey Theatre

Twelfth Night was written by Shakespeare in 1601-1602 and tells the tale of twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are ship wrecked and believe the other to be dead. They both arrive in Illyria at different times. Viola decides to dress as a young man, and calls herself Cesario, so that she can enter the service of Duke Orsino. This sets in motion a chain of events, with much confusion between the gender and appearance of the two identical siblings.

This is a brash and bold production of Shakespeare’s comedy by director Wayne Jordan, who recently directed Threepenny Opera at the Gate. As you enter the theatre, the back wall of the stage is covered with full height gold curtains, that ripple and reflect the stage lights. This is a taste of what is to come, that has more than a touch of Vaudeville. Once the play begins, the stage is filled by a number of very large loudspeakers, which are pushed onto the set, and form the majority of the furniture on the barren stage. The back wall of the set is visible and painted a strong blue, with the words ‘What you will?’ in bold white lettering, which is the other name for Twelfth Night.

There are a number of songs throughout the play, and Ger Kelly excels at combining acting with singing, and has a lovely voice that carries well in the large space. The music varies between traditional and the more contemporary, with a barber shop rendition of ‘Firestarter’ one of the highlights. The set changes work well, with the cast members pulling and pushing the large speakers around the stage, and various other items such as chairs, tables and even a fridge!

The performance of the large cast is impressive and it is great to see so many new faces on the Abbey stage. Mark O’Halloran is a delight as the middle management suit Malvolio. Mark Lambert and Sophie Robinson also catch the eye, but there are many fine performances within the fourteen member cast.

While this production may not be to everyone’s taste, and will certainly annoy those expecting a traditional version of Shakespeare’s play, the level of thought and invention that goes into a production as rich as this is there for all to see. The Abbey has been rebuked in the past for treading water, but this is something new and vibrant. It will appeal to a younger crowd and hopefully it will draw a new audience to the national theatre.

Duration: Three and a half hours, including interval!

Twelfth Night runs at the Abbey Theatre until the 24th of May. Tickets are €13 – €45.


Lloyd Cooney –  Fabian
Muiris Crowley – Captain/ Priest
Nick Dunning – Sir Toby Belch
Elaine Fox – Valentine
Gavin Fullam – Sebastian
Ger Kelly – Feste
Mark Lambert – Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Conor Madden – Antonio
Ruth McGill – Maria
Barry John O’Connor – Orsino
Mark O’Halloran – Malvolio
Alex Petcu – Musician
Natalie Radmall-Quirke – Olivia
Sophie Robinson – Viola
Wayne Jordan – Director
Ciarán O’Melia- Set Design
Emma Fraser – Costume Design
Simon Mills – Lighting Design
Tom Lane – Composer
Ben Delaney – Sound Design
Sue Mythen – Movement Director
Ciarán O’Grady – Fight Director

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