Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Twelfth Night or What You Will at The Space
Ginger Hibiscus | Twelfth Night or What You Will at The Space
Ginger Hibiscus | Twelfth Night or What You Will at The Space
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25 Jul REVIEW: Twelfth Night or What You Will at The Space

In the wonderful world of Shakespearean drama, nothing is ever quite as it seems. So when Duke Orsino is presented with a new page, Cesario, it doesn’t seem immediately bonkers to know that this page isn’t actually the boy his outfit would have you believe, but a young lady named Viola. Washed up unceremoniously on the shores of Illyria, and unsure as to the survival or not of her twin brother, Sebastian, Viola is put to work carrying messages between Orsino and the unreachably beautiful object of his affections, Olivia. But when an affectionate eye gazes upon Cesario, Viola’s left now knowing how to respond, without compromising herself, or her position in the household.

Twelfth NightOne of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, the abundance of Twelfth Night productions makes it tricky to stand out from the crowd, even more so in the world of fringe theatre where producers aren’t at liberty to simply pour in extra cash to extract a little magic. Despite this serious challenge to the creative team, it’s one that Pell Mell Theatre – and in particular director Natalie York – rise to with meet gusto, in a freaky circus vision of Twelfth Night that’s as a la mode as a vape bar or a hipster beard, and infinitely more enjoyable.

Accordion music firmly setting the 1920’s freakshow tone even before metaphorical curtain up, a gorgeous ballet/mime opening sequence (choreographed by Thomas Michael Voss) entices audience minds into a dreamlike state, strange and beautiful, and a genuinely quirky addition to the play. Both within this sequence and throughout, Olivia’s depiction as a ballerina – graceful and dramatic – serves as a discerning similitude, adding yet another dimension to an already multi-faceted work. Faint echoes of this cry of artistry resound almost silently through the play, fantastical moments rising and falling back, but also begging to be amplified to provide greater cohesion.

This opening sequence is not only a celebration of circus oddities, but also serves to introduce the four minor characters, converted into a Greek chorus of sorts. Their painted faces adorned with playing card suits, the group of omnipresent observers play the traditional role in helping to tell the story, but this time using visual cues, and communicating through dance and movement rather than language. An adaptation that undoubtedly enhances comprehension, in their more traditional roles the group also form part of the pivotal garden scene, Shakespearean silliness taken to the point of hilarity by director York.

A detailed production piqued with numerous little touches, there are some problems when it comes to staging, particularly in that despite the flat seating area, a lot happens low down on stage, making it hard to see for anyone not in the front row. Not only does it mean that sections of the audience miss certain moments, but it also draws the eye to what would be irrelevant and unnoticeable scene changes going on in the background.

But it’s the skill of characterisation that’s most striking in this version of Twelfth Night, with the pompous Malvolio as the kind of sneering fashionista you might expect to find on Rodeo Drive, and clown Feste more as a fabulously camp drag queen than a children’s’ party entertainer. This escape from the traditional Elizabethan garb that colonises the more orthodox Shakespearean productions is a welcome breath of fresh air, and is the ribbon that draws this slightly unhinged, twisted accordion version of the Illyric love triangle into a neat, yet flamboyant, bow.

For tickets and information:
Venue: The Space
Dates: 21st July – 8th August 2015
Image: Venus Raven

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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