Firstly, a confession: this is the first Twelfth Night production I have seen. I heard great things about the Simon Godwin production at the National, but sadly missed it. So Jo Davies (director) has supplied my first exposure to the play – and I have to thank her for a truly delightful evening.
Everything about this production is eclectic: the music, the costumes, the set. The result is a wonderfully chaotic mix which defies categorisation into a period or genre: from melancholy folk music to funky rock strains from an electric guitar; from traditional arm chairs to bean bags; from soft tea lights to shopping trolleys full of garish balloons and tinsel Christmas trees; from sophisticated gowns to a bright yellow lycra onesie. I get the sense that the creative team has had an absolute blast putting this together – and it’s great fun to watch.
The actors seem similarly to be having a terrific time. The long-haired Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Harry Attwell) camps it up to great comedic effect, drawing guffaws from the audience every time he appears, while Kate Kennedy plays Olivia both with tremendous elegance and a subtle combination of gravitas and humour. And there are some delightful touches – one of my favourite being the newly-in-love Olivia stuffing her face with popcorn. Indeed, the play is full of unexpected momemnts – including Kate O’Donnell (as Feste) sitting in the audience at the end of the interval, having an informal ‘chat’ with us about her life as a fool.
Gender/identity confusion, unrequited love, ambition; in Twelfth Night, these very serious themes are transformed into comedy through the creation of great characters. Jo Davies’s production reflects this perfectly – and adds a sizeable dose of irreverence into the mix. A thoroughly enjoyable experience.