A balmy summer’s night is off to a good start when it involves a bottle of white, a tartan blanket, and a picnic basket with enough cheese to rival an Oprah Christmas special. Even better when it’s accompanied by one of the Immortal Bard’s more upbeat offerings and a group of talented actors to bring it to life. Thankfully, in keeping with the general light-heartedness of this time of year, Shakespeare WA decided on the comedic play Twelfth Night: a wise choice considering that the general merriment of the summer season doesn’t really mesh with gross betrayal, a Machiavellian schemer and multiple homicides.

I was ready for a laugh, and a laugh is what I got. What’s more, I was not alone. Thanks to a capable cast, Twelfth Night was milked for all its comedic value. It managed to convey all the humour and energy expected from a play centred round a ludicrously convoluted love triangle (or octagon), while maintaining the beauty of several surprisingly moving speeches. Audience members were also coerced into the performance: at one point, two women in the front row were incorporated into a particularly comical scene, before returning to their seats to professions of undying love and offers of marriage from two male cast members.

It’s no secret that all things Gatsby-related is currently in vogue, so it was no surprise to see the female leads in 1920s costumes – although Viola (rising star Gracie Gilbert) was clad in male clothing throughout the majority of the play. What was refreshing, though, was that the rest of the cast were dressed in varying attire: Japanese kimonos, togas and golfing outfits were on display, to name a few. It was a nice change-up and served to enhance the play’s general state of disorder.

A large amount of stacked suitcases that provided the backdrop for Twelfth Night also worked well: there’s already enough going on in the play so it’s fitting that the backdrop was minimalistic. Despite its simplicity, though, the suitcases served an array of purposes throughout the course of the play, especially in one particularly hilarious scene which involved the humiliation of the poor duped Malvolio (a wonderfully pompous Nick Candy).

It’s a comedy, so it’s only fair that the real heroes of the night should have been the comedic male trio, which comprised the consistently inebriated Sir Toby Belch (Stephen Lee), occasional crooner and full-time schemer Feste (James Hagan),and a wonderfully idiotic Sir Andrew Aguecheek (scene stealer, David Davies.)

With all the gender bending, cross dressing and general befuddlement that characterises Twelfth Night, it’s easy to get confused, especially if you’re not familiar with the play, but it was to Shakespeare WA’s credit that the play never became so confusing as to leave its viewer behind, hampering full immersion in the performance. In some scenarios the restrictions of an indoor theatre are a blessing, especially when the play in question contains a more convoluted plot, but King’s Park actually enhanced and brought to life the general mayhem that is Twelfth Night. I guess Shakespeare was right: all the world’s a stage (even if it’s a park in the middle of Perth.)

Shakespeare WA
Twelfth Night
Shakespeare in the Park

Venue: Kings Park (Pioneer Women's Memorial) | Kings Park Rd, West Perth WA
Dates: Friday 3 January – Saturday 1 February 2014 (No performances on Sunday).
Tickets: $21.00 – $54.00 (Gates open at 7:00 pm – Show begins at 8:00pm)
Bookings: http://shakespearewa.com/ | at the door

Most read Perth reviews

A small group of amateur actors, some professionals, no overarching theme for some ten minute...

To this critic, as to many Short+Sweet patrons, this programme of two peformances of 12...

Every one of the eleven short plays were excellent. Their very different topics and...