“Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere” and Studio Theatre Club’s production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a shimmering celebration of ingenious absurdity.
A captivating element of Twelfth Night (and this production in particular) is the unobtrusive, but nevertheless prominent emphasis on music and song. With original music composed by Dan Booth being delivered by so many extremely talented virtuosos, the audience would be thrilled by the performance of this alone, even without adding in the beauty of Shakespeare’s words being offered with accomplished comedic flair. Once again, Stephen Briggs has triumphed in the costume department. There are so many luscious fabrics and colours exhibited, always perfectly matched to every character and situation.
I suspect Shakespeare may have been poking fun at himself when he penned the line: “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction”. The classic tale of mistaken identity begins with a shipwreck in which Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are separated, each believing the other has perished. Viola disguises herself as a man called Cesario and becomes servant to Duke Orsino of
The large cast collectively offer an abundance of nuanced merriment, and each part is undertaken with gusto. Viola is fervently enacted by Avery Robinson, she is truly “smiling at grief” as she hides her feelings for Orsino while playing Cesario. Duke Orsino (Dan Booth) commands the stage, directing Cesario, his courtiers Curio (Ben Winters) and Valentine (John Kirchhoff). Ben is one of STC’s outstanding musicians, delighting the audience not only with his direction of the Wassailers (featuring the talented Lindsay Rolland), but also through his mastery of the violin.
Countess Olivia, a head-strong character, is staunchly rendered by Francesca Richards, who confidently governs every situation thrown her way. She is sometimes accompanied by her mischievous friend Maria (Kat Steiner), who adds layers of unique characterisation to her part.
An abundance of animated japes arise through the combination of Charlie Vicary as Sir Toby Belch, Peter Hubbard as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Mike Macdonald as Fabian, Rory Morrison as Feste (Olivia’s Fool), and Kat Steiner as Maria. These players work brilliantly together, delivering some of the most comical interactions and one-liners with nothing short of aplomb. Charlie and Peter’s physicality is particularly evident, with scarcely a minute going by without a sublimely humorous act or expression. Rory entrances the audience with his beautiful voice and lute, while also ably conferring Feste’s complex lines and varied conversation.
Matt Kirk rubs up against these characters, resulting in a shift from the cantankerous natural affect of Olivia’s
Yash Karan takes on the role of Viola’s brother Sebastian. He regales the audience with a vigorous fencing match, and touching reunions with his sister, ably supported by Antonia (Helen Keely), a spunky, loyal buccaneer who saved him from the shipwreck. Smaller, but no less vibrant performances include Neil Fisher as Sir Dagulo (a priest), Morsel (a police officer) played by Helen Drought, Kate (Olivia’s servant) realised by Alexandra Hendriok, and Stephen Briggs as the Sea Captain.
Sensibly minimalistic, the set consists of a Christmas tree secluded in an alcove at the back of the stage, pine garlands, subtle wall candles and the occasional chair. This facilitates speedy scene changes, along with ensuring the audience is not distracted from the shenanigans and sumptuous costumes on show. The stage lighting is subtle, but never boring. The garlands and tree exhibit dappled fairy lights to indicate specific interior settings, with natural flood lighting used to convey exteriors. This is well paired with the sound tapestry featuring bird song, church chimes and waves lapping on the shore; providing additional texture to the on-stage capers.
Studio Theatre Club will be treating audiences to this fabulous, multi-faceted feast for the senses nightly until Saturday the 18th of November, with a bonus matinee on the same day. Let the wassailers resound: “If music be the food of love, play on”!