Mistaken identity, silliness and disguises – it must be a Shakespeare play. But not just any Shakespeare play, my favourite: Twelfth Night. Performed in the beautiful and intimate grounds of St Paul’s Church by Iris Theatre.
The shipwrecked Lady Viola (Pepter Lunkuse) lands on the island of Illyria and disguises herself as a boy, going to work for the lovesick Duke Orsino (Julian Moore-Cook) who is wooing Olivia (Olivia Onyehara). However, Olivia is having none of it, but then she falls in love with Cesario/Viola, who has in turn fallen for Orsino.
It’s the perfect love triangle, added to by Viola’s twin brother Sebastian (Henry Wyrley-Birch) who has also survived the wreck and of course some hapless clowns, mischievous servants and music – provided by the cast themselves.
The script has been abridged, but loses none of the hilarity and flows excellently – there is not one break in the piece when the audience are asked to move onto the next part of the play. As we promenade around the grounds, we see their tale played out as if we too were in the cast.
And what a cast it is, with strong acting and cheeky humour from most of them as they interact discreetly with the audience, facially and verbally, adding to the comedy of the play. Nothing !!fazes them and they take everything in their stride, even when things go slightly awry (if indeed they did – their reactions were impeccable so who knows?)
The double act between Sir Andrew (Henry Wyrley-Birch) and Sir Toby (Robert Maskell) is hilarious as they gel really well together, becoming even funnier when Feste (Nick Howard-Brown) and Maria (Anne-Marie Piazza) join them to gang up against Malvolio (Tony Bell).
Nick Howard-Brown is enchanting as Feste, his straight faced comedy and physical acting hilarious (he’d make a wonderful Fagin), in a way reminiscent of Lord Flashheart… But trust me it works! Anne-Marie Piazza shows her versatility in yet another role, looking every inch the sly, conniving wench! Tony Bell smarms and smirks his way through the performance and then those yellow cross garter’d stockings. Amazing.
Perhaps the best thing about Twelfth Night is that it’s supposed to be unbelievable and ridiculous, so the cast have a lot of flexibility to act the fool and keep the meaning alive.
When poor Malvolio is reading his mistress’s very Cs, Us and Ts, other cast members are (literally) under his nose and very much in view! But this just adds to the hilarity, as does Bell’s interaction with the audience, which at this time includes Sir Andrew.
The same is true when the twins are mistaken for one another; even though Pepter and Henry are clearly not twins, it doesn’t matter because the acting and humour combined is perfect.
The cast are excellent, the weather was fabulous and the fairy lights beautiful grounds really added to the magic of this fantastic production.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Hannah Barton
Twelfth Night is playing at St Pauls Church until 24 July 2015. Click here to book tickets