Set in and around a Victorian music hall, this production combine’s dance with circus acts that can be distracting to watch and makes certain sequences such as the opening scene feel overly long and unnecessary – despite how creative it is. The dance opening the play although well choreographed feels out of place in this Shakespeare play.
However because of the intimate nature of the production, it allows the audience to purely focus on the characters and what is happening. But director Natalie York has also added a darker element to the play that changes the perspective thanks to the circus setting – scenes such as when Malvolio is being taunted by Maria, Sir Toby and others bring to mind bear baiting and other similar activities which adds a cruel streak, making it hard to watch at times.
The performances are strong throughout, but in particular Ella Garland as Viola and Lawrence Boothman as Feste provide memorable performances. Garland’s Viola is comical, playful and a joy to watch. Her sense of comic timing is perfect - even if at times she risks getting a little too carried away particularly with her facial reactions. Meanwhile Boothman also understands the importance of getting the comedy right and although some might find his performance over the top, it fits in well with the style of the production.
Although the production has plenty of energy and pace, it does feel as though the cast are rushing through their lines slightly – it could be nerves but it would be great for them to slow down and take their time over their lines as it felt as though some of the dialogue was missed. This in turn meant that what was happening wasn’t always clear, particularly when it is revealed that Cesario is in fact Viola.
But it has to be said that the scenes flow easily and it provides plenty of opportunity to examine the relationships between various characters. However, I felt that despite the level of comedy that the play includes the production didn’t really make the most of it at times and came across as slightly flat in places such as when it is realised that Olivia (Lucy Laing) is in fact in love with Cesario/Viola – which is a key moment in the play.
It is an interesting take on the Twelfth Night or What You Will, but has flaws which could easily be smoothed out during the course of the run.
Review by Emma Clarendon
Twelfth Night runs at the Space Theatre until the 8th August 2015