Left – Bryony Hindley and Antony Rive
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many of the Australian Shakespeare Company’s productions and they have never failed to deliver. The current production of Twelfth Night is no exception as director Glenn Elston offers up a fantastical interpretation of Shakespeare’s gender-bending comedy.
The festival atmosphere amongst the always stunning Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne has been created with an “Alice in Wonderland” feel in both costume and character.
Keeping pace with Shakespeare’s comedy of something akin to a love octagon, the cast are full of gusto and the ensemble mingle with the audience throughout the play, keeping theatre goers on their toes. Elizabeth Brennan as the shipwrecked Viola captures the difficulty of being a woman in a man’s world, (and in her case men’s clothing) as she searches for her twin brother Sebastian (James Coley) in a unique case of identity fraud. After falling in love with her master Duke Orsino (Charlie Sturgeon), Viola inadvertently is lavished with the affections of Olivia (Syd Zygier) believing she is a man and much to Viola’s dismay. In amongst all of this, Duke Orsino is in love with Olivia as is her steward Malvolio (Hugh Sexton). It’s exhausting just to think about!
In what could be considered the “original daytime soapie” Shakespeare’s story is as gloriously entertaining as ever, as mistaken identity is taken to new levels.
Joined onstage by the brilliant Kevin Hopkins as Sir Toby Belch and Anthony Rive as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the two steal the show with their hijinks. Whilst Sexton as Malvolio is the very picture of embittered as he fumbles with his affections for Olivia, only to be tricked into becoming the very thing she despises most. Sexton brings a humanity to a character which can be sometimes construed as two-dimensional, and you cannot help but pity the poor fool.
What I enjoyed the most however was Sturgeon’s Duke Orsino. After seeing him play the romantic lead in another production, it was wonderful to watch the way he approached the obsessive Duke, and the power he brought to the character.
The Australian Shakespeare Company has once again revitalized the Bard’s work and kept the audience thoroughly entertained with an exciting and fun production. From costuming and make-up which play with the festival concept and actors that clearly love what they do, it’s easy to call this production exactly what it is. Flawless.
The Australian Shakespeare Company presents
by William Shakespeare
Director Glenn Elston
Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Dates: 20 Dec 2016 – 4 March 2017