By Danielle Farrow
Twelfth Night, C
5 -30 Aug (not 16) 1415 (1525) @ C (+1)
Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night includes his usual mixture of interesting characters and entertaining mistaken identity / gender, with some fine songs for good measure, as we follow Viola’s romantic adventures after a shipwreck in which she loses her brother. C Theatre’s
own version describes itself as “melodrama meets vaudeville in this fast-paced adaptation full of music and madness and a few bright young things”.
Bright young things are delivered, six actors covering the many roles (with only performers, not characters, given on the programme sheet), and some duologue scenes are very strong, a particular highlight being Viola’s song for the man she loves. They also provide a few great comedy moments and some fine emotional depth as the play’s climax unfolds. A couple of the comic characters suffer from pushing the humour and forcing vocal characteristics / volume, but the main area for work for these ‘young things’ is that of really listening and responding to each other (and the audience) in monologues and group scenes – hopefully this will develop during the run.
Possibly the forced performances noted were a stylistic choice, with regard to vaudeville (or even melodrama), but they did not work as such. The company is not served by their show’s description. Set c. mid-30s, going by the few background songs (costume could be a bit earlier) – Feste the Fool may, perhaps, be meant as a vaudeville entertainer, but this is definitely not obvious. The play is framed by the cast portraying actors with fancy names reminiscent of melodrama performers and vaudevillians. Other than these mere nods to genre, neither vaudeville (which would have supported some wonderful business where one actor’s different characters could ‘meet‘) nor melodrama really features in the play itself.
While the framing allows the actors to connect to the audience, this is not sustained in the play, particularly missing when Sir Toby plays his fight trick – though the fight itself is another highlight. Minimal set allows scenes to flow, and lighting serves to define them, but cuts make some scenes noticeably abrupt and stilted, and Sebastian’s story-line suffers to the point of becoming unclear even if you know the plot.
Overall, direction is disappointing, and would have benefited from actually incorporating the promised vaudeville and melodrama, but this may still become a 3 star show if the company can gel in their style and interaction. If you would like a fairly entertaining but somewhat unimaginative Shakespeare production, then C Theatre’s Twelfth Night is still worth a look.