Below are two reviews of our recent production of Twelfth Night !!! The first from NODA and the second as it appeared in the Bishop’s Stortford independent
Author: Decia Ranger
After months of being denied the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience, Water Lane was obviously raring to go and most certainly on top form for their picnic presentation of this hilarious version of “Twelfth Night”. This was Shakespeare on holiday in what the programme describes as a (relatively) upmarket resort. Costumes were modern with a nod to the traditional. I’m sure the Bard would have thoroughly approved.
Performing in a large outdoor space calls for good projection and the society has a number of experienced actors for whom this was not a problem. A dour Richard Pink declaring himself to be Head of Compliance opened the proceedings. Cat Quigley as Fabienne was a great over the top holiday rep with Paul Winspear (Feste) looking a decidedly bored Head of Fun. Your normal package holiday this was not, although there may be those who disagree.
There were excellent performances from Nancy Jones as the flirtatious Olivia and Hannah-Marie Juggins as Viola who, disguised as Cesario, a boy, becomes the object of Olivia’s desires. Matt Juggins used his powerful speaking voice to great effect as Orsino, the character with whom Viola is in love and Andy Roberts made a great Sir Andrew Aguecheek. I made a note by his name which says ‘funny sunnies’ and they certainly were a great comedic touch. There were other strong performances from Michael Beavan as Viola’s twin brother Sebastian and Will Jamieson as Sir Toby Belch. Granville Rush was obviously enjoying playing Malvolio whose dreams of marrying Olivia are shattered when he appears in yellow stockings and cross garters. Hilarious. I’m sure Amanda Green had a lot of people fooled when she was coaxed from the audience following the plea for a priest.
Everyone in the cast did a great job in bringing their character to life and what is more, they were all obviously enjoying every minute of it. Well done to the children who were having a lot of fun running to the beach and back throughout the evening.
The Monastery Garden is a lovely setting, lending itself perfectly to the re-enactment of Shakespeare’s works. It is however a vast space and there were times when I felt the action was rather too spread out. We were seated centrally with an excellent view (thank you Richard) but were aware that those seated further along on both sides may have had difficulty seeing and hearing what was going on. I’m sure the Director had his reasons for using the space as he did, even though it involved the cast doing a lot of running back and forth. Could this have been to capture the attention of those still enjoying their picnics? Personally I would have preferred the action to have been more contained. That said, it was a lot of fun with the majority of the audience showing their appreciation throughout.
The icing on the cake was of course the weather. A lovely warm evening with not a drop of rain in sight. I do hope it stayed that way for the rest of the run. Congratulations to all involved in putting this production together. No mean feat in a pandemic.
Thank you for inviting me.
Indy review !!!
Phoebe Taplin reviews Water Lane Theatre Company’s open-air production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the Monastery Gardens, Bishop’s Stortford, Thursday July 1-Sunday July 4…
Water Lane’s joyous outdoor production of Shakespeare’s romcom Twelfth Night was just what Bishop’s Stortford needed after months of loneliness and cultural deprivation.
Transposed to a modern-day holiday resort, it opened with instructions from the “head of compliance” (director Richard Pink) which managed simultaneously to inform and to satirise the tortuous one-way systems that places have had to introduce. But this talented amateur company relied only sparingly on contemporary interpolations (like references to sponsorship by Premier Travel) to make us laugh.
Kicking off with the shipwreck, the script from stranded Viola’s “What country friends is this?” onwards was (mostly) Shakespeare’s, albeit shifted from Illyria to Marbella, with a crowd of cheerfully screaming kids running through and waving inflatables between scenes.
Hannah Juggins as Viola was throughout an upbeat, likeable anchor for the plot. The humour came mostly through a simple and lively clarity about what the characters were saying and why. I have seen Twelfth Night dozens of times and can honestly say I have never laughed so much.
Twelfth Night has such an excess of foolery that it has two fools: Cat Quigley played Fabian (here Senõrita Fabienne) with wit and conviction while Paul Winspear as Feste had just the right balance of jest and melancholy.
Charlotte Pritchard was a believably capable Maria (“my lady’s head of catering”) and had some fine ensemble comedy collaborations with the reeling drunkenness of Sir Toby Belch (Will Jamieson) and the fabulously lisping uselessness of Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Andy Roberts). The scene where Maria shifts from professional disapproval to mischievous scheming as she is drawn into late-night carousing was staged with panache.
It was not only the comic characters and clowns who made us laugh. Nancy Jones as the lovestruck Countess Olivia and Matthew Juggins as the self-dramatising Count Orsino were also engaging.
A virtuoso turn by Amanda Green as Madam Topas the priest, seemingly picked out of the audience at random, made sure the play did not flag towards the end.
As did Michael Beavan as Sebastian and John Bell as an excellent Antonio, the poignancy of Antonio’s desperation when he thinks he has been betrayed by his friend contrasting with the slapstick security officers chasing him.
There was a stand-out performance from Granville Rush as Malvolio, the Lady Olivia’s steward. Whether starchy in pinstripes or flirtatious in yellow tights (a scene that is usually more excruciating than hilarious), he turned in a laugh-out-loud portrayal of pomposity brought low by its own self-importance. Shakespeare’s own hatred of the theatre-closing Puritans fuelled his portrait of Malvolio and this play recreated the bard’s championing of human joie de vivre even in a time of plague.
Of course, it helped that it was all safely outdoors, that the weather was fine and that we could bring our own wine (or buy it from the Twisted Cellar van). For many of us, this was the first live theatrical performance we have seen in over a year. But none of that should detract from the cast’s achievement.
This may not have been a flawless production, but it was brilliant in every way that matters.