When The Great Gatsby, Titanic and Capital FM are put into a room together you get OVO’s Twelfth Night. The Rose Playhouse was home to the 1920s jazzy version of the Shakespearean comedy on board the SS Illyria.
Director Adam Nichols’ strength lies in the sheer fluidity of the Shakespearean English used. Each actor understood every word and intention, speaking as naturally as one would with modern English that it sounded natural throughout.
The group’s stylistic choices worked well, complementing its 1920s feel with Viola, Lucy Crick and Sebastian, Joshua Newman taking on the role of the ‘cruise ship dancing twins’. The performers managed to use the intimate space to their advantage, emphasising its cruise ship size.
With the likes of Britney Spears, Katy Perry and even Radiohead played by the multi-rolling jazz band, the play had a variety of music that suited every situation. You can’t have a story set on a ship without a little homage to Titanic, Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On played neatly on piano representing Viola’s infatuation with Orsino, played by Will Forester left the audience in hysterics.
Twelfth Night is known for its deceit, wit and hilarity, which were seen through the characters of sassy ‘Lady’ Toby, Anna Franklin, loveable loser Sir Andrew, James Douglas, cheeky Maria, Jane Withers and their band of jokers. As an ensemble, they thrived. From Lady Toby’s sensual Seven Nation Army number which left her spewing over deck, to Sir Andrews literal ‘wiggle’ to Jason Derulo’s very strange song, their use of classic slapstick humour was effortless.
Feste, Hannah Francis-Baker, was a personal favourite character, for a secondary character she held the audience with intervals of amazing trumpet playing, singing and hilarious facial expressions and dance moves. Her comedic rendition of Last Friday Night by Katy Perry as the ensemble partied the night away was almost unrecognisable from the bubble gum pop song we know from the charts.
Faith Turner’s Malvolia played off this ensemble, receiving a round of applause after her reaction to ‘Olivia’s’ famous letter which then led to her singing Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful in yellow cross garters .
Twelfth Night is a play that feeds off miscommunication, sending everyone in a tizzy. Viola’s solo, Toxic by Brittney Spears felt quite out of sync. The songs deliberate attempt to represent her love for Orsino was lost due to the fact we were yet to be introduced to the character until after the song had finished.
The heightened comedic scenes were so great and pantomime-esque, the slower scenes lacked as a result – when the equilibrium is restored at the end of the play it was somewhat dragged out. This jeopardised the amusement in everyone finding out the truth and what was to be a funny scene, fell a bit flat.
The original text sees Malvolio seeking revenge on everyone for doing him wrong; OVO instead opted for Malvolia’s rendition of Creep by Radiohead. The eerie nature of this song sung with only a piano and dark lighting gave the exact same effect as the original text did, if not, even more uncomfortable than using the original prose.
From stuffed monkeys to Jason Derulo, this swing version of Twelfth Night successfully brought comedy to The Rose Playhouse, yet lacked in strength and tempo in its more serious moments when establishing the storyline.
Reviewed by Aliya Siddique
Photo: Lou Morris Photography
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