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Twelfth Night – Smock Alley Theatre – Review

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Twelfth Night or What You Will – Review by Helen O’Leary

Smock Alley Theatre

After a spluttering start this play erupts with a beach party scene leaving the audience in no doubt that this is anything but a plain ordinary production of Twelfth Night. A young troupe of actors in funky dress dancing like they’ve never danced before has me momentarily wondering if I’ve arrived at the wrong venue.This production is by PurpleCoat and directed by Karl Falconer and this up and coming English company bring a modern twist to one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. The story goes that Lady Viola finds herself shipwrecked on the shore of a strange land. All alone and assuming her twin brother Sebastian to be drowned she disguises herself as a boy servant called “Cesario” and finds work at the court of Lord Orsino. The Lord is a little love sick, moping around his court pining for the fair Lady Olivia who has rejected his advances. Lady Olivia instead falls in love with the servant Cesario, who in turn is secretly in love with her master Lord Orsino. Sounds complex and that’s only half the story but the action is easy to follow on stage. The play is funny and also a little sad. It’s about falling in love, the joy and cruelty of it and above all the absurdity of it.

The play utilises many of the entertaining devices that we’ve come to associate with Shakespeare. There is a fool who is not so foolish, a bit of cross-dressing, some letter forging, various disguises and mistaken identities. The high jinks and carousing of a trio at the court of Lady Olivia provide many laughs. It also showcases the genius of Shakespeare, the comic timing, the double entendre of lines that remain fresh and funny today.

The actors own regional English accents are an integral part of the production and it’s amusing to hear some servants speak in loftier tones than the nobility. While the local accents are refreshing, at times the combination of a strange accent and Shakespearean speech makes catching every line a challenge.

This is a thoroughly modern production. It’s heady, fast-paced and imaginative. The set is designed to look like a beach party scene (did I mention it was imaginative?), with beach towels hanging and deck chairs strewn around. The music and song by which the fool helps the story along is also present day.

Running at over two and a half hours in length, not even once did I take a sneaky peek at my watch. I was completely engrossed by both the talented performers and the wit of Mr. Shakespeare himself. Alas this play is on a whistle-stop tour and was in Dublin for one night only but I can only recommend it if it passes by this way again.

Twelfth Night or What You Will – Ran in Smock Alley Theatre for one night only – September 2nd.

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