Left - Kenneth Ransom and Amanda Woodhams. Cover - Kirsty Hillhouse and Amanda Woodhams. Photos - Gary Marsh
Although Black Swan State Theatre Company's production of Twelfth Night has its faults, the audience will still leave with a warm feel good fuzzy feeling after watching it. Such is the nature of Shakespeare’s play and the soft, light version directed here by Roger Hodgman.
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most approachable plays, having fewer side stories than most, and being a mixture of comedy, drama, and romance. Twins Viola and Sebastian, each believing the other has drowned, end up in the Dukedom of Illyria. Disguising herself as a boy called Cesario, Viola begins working for the Duke Orsino, who sends Cesario to woo the Countess Olivia for him. Olivia however, falls in love with Cesario, and the tangled web of romance begins, complicated further when Sebastian is mistaken for Cesario and vice versa. The peripheral story of Olivia’s household (lady in waiting Maria, Uncle Sir Toby Belch, and foolish friend Sir Aguecheek) engineering a practical joke against steward Malvolio provides the comedy and the drama and indeed the better moments of the play.
A simple set by Christina Smith is characterised by soft beach tones and sloped, angled surfaces. A jagged split in the back wall is both effective as another entrance / exit point and symbolic of the ship wreck, as well as the complicated lives of the people of Illyria.
Alicia Clements has transported the characters via her costumes into wealthy, preppy, modern day people on holiday. I kept thinking of Gossip Girl in the Hamptons - tennis whites, preppy school blazer jackets, oversized sunglasses and scarves casually tied around necks. It was a striking look, and suited the breezy set and style of the production. By contrast, Feste’s (the Fools) outfit (grunge rock Tim Minchin style) stood out and ensured he was noticed.
The majority of the cast coped well with the language, although I thought Kelton Pell (Antonio) was wooden and Amanda Woodhams as Viola struggled in some places. At times it sounded like Woodhams was merely reciting the words, rather than understanding them. Although her characterisation was too over the top for my liking, Kirtsy Hillhouse as Olivia has a good understanding of Shakespeare, and the words sound beautiful when she says them. Geoff Kelso was the standout as Malvolio, eliciting unprompted applause after two of his monologues.
I was disappointed with Steve Turner as Feste. Like most of Shakespeare’s fools, Feste has some of the best lines and songs in the play. Turner delivered the lines well, but really seemed to struggle with the singing. This may have been the in part due to the rock like melodies composed by Ash Gibson Greig - normally so outstanding I felt let down as it was a real mismatch of themes.
What this production lacks is depth, and the deep melancholy and menace I have seen portrayed so well in other productions. I'm not sure if this was the intention, or the company had hoped that it would be harder hitting than it comes across as. It also needs to pick up the pace and make it snappier. However Twelfth Night is still enjoyable, the audience will laugh, and you will leave smiling.
Black Swan State Theatre Company presents:
by William Shakespeare
Director Roger Hodgman
Venue: Playhouse Theatre
Dates: 24 July – 8 August 2010
Tickets: Standard $54.50, Concession $44.50
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing (08) 9484 1133 | www.bocsticketing.com.au