Twelfth Night: Shakespeare WA

Gracie Gilbert and George Allen  Photo: Ingrid Proos
Gracie Gilbert and George Allen
Photo: Ingrid Proos

As we all sat on our picnic rugs watching the outdoor performance of Shakespeare WA’s Twelfth Night, a sprinkling of rain began and persisted for about 15 minutes. Despite the cooling interruption, the captivated audience pulled their rugs and jackets around them and continued to enjoy the show. The fact that no one got up and left was testament to the quality of this production.

Like so many of Shakespeare’s comedies this one revolves around love triangles, deceit and mistaken identity. In the past I have found these plot devices quite tiresome, but not so in this production.

As has come to be expected, Paige Newmark has stamped this production with his unique interpretation of the script. The setting was transposed to the 1920s and adapted so well it looked like the play had been written for the era. Newmark’s sense of humour, nuance and style was littered throughout and drew each of the fine performances together.

Jake Newby’s set creation was an impressive mountain of suitcases that did everything it needed to establish the scene, as well as housing props and additional set pieces. The cast moved among it naturally and effectively. Even when the drizzling rain wet the sloping stage, they negotiated the hazard in their (often high) heels without distraction.

The costuming was a fabulous display of the era. Designer Ingrid Proos has done a masterful job to clothe each character perfectly with regard to their status and used extravagant items to emphasise their quirks.

There were no weak links in the casting of this production. Each of the ten actors gave strong performances and fully embodied the complex nature of their relationships. The plot points were delivered with clarity and I found I’d developed empathy for each character, even the miserable Malvolio (Nick Candy).

As well as giving a brilliant performance that reflected his extensive experience in the genre, Stephen Lee (Sir Toby Belch) delighted audiences particularly with his audience interaction, cutting wit and cheeky asides. James Hagan was just wonderful as Feste the Bard Fool. He was quite literally the voice of experience. Rounding out the trio of mischief makers was gullible and endearing Sir Andrew Aguecheek played expertly by David Davies.

David Davis Photo:  Ingrid Proos
David Davis
Photo: Ingrid Proos

Nick Maclaine has come boldly into a new stage of his Shakespearean career, leaving behind the ingénue characters that he has played so well in the past and delivering a cracking performance as the obnoxious Count Orsino.

The final dance, choreographed by Jessica Waters, was delightful fun as always and totally in keeping with the tradition of Shakespearean theatre.

Twelfth Night runs each evening (except Sundays) until the 1st February and I highly recommend it for an entertaining night out under the stars in a gorgeous venue.

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