The confusion is added to a little by actors younger than their characters, identical twins played by actors who aren’t remotely similar-looking, and an actress playing a man – slightly perplexing alongside another actress playing a woman playing a man. Still, I condemn it not – this is all par for the course with Shakespeare productions, and you can rely on his textual cues to guide you through – that and the acting.
The acting is pretty helpful in this instance – exuberant, bold performances from all, enthusiastic, on-point and genuinely comic. Especially worthy of note is the man playing Sir Toby Belch, who deftly crosses an acting minefield - the ability to act drunk. When that goes wrong, as it often does, it can be absolutely cringe-worthy (see also ‘nightclubs in soap operas’). Here it is light and charming, and the well-dressed cast have enough charisma and easy confidence to get the audience vocally on-side. Their talent is made all the more sickening by their youth and good looks.
Modern suits and upbeat music fuel the hedonistic atmosphere, which evokes the appropriate sense of the carnivalesque – late-night drinking and partying, a fluid sexuality that can fall in love with a person seconds after discovering their true gender, and a sense that ‘Anything Goes’.
It all adds up to a night of theatrical Cava – intoxicating enough for us to forget that much of this is essentially a story about rich aristocrats getting drunk and keeping people up with their noisy late-night revels – not such a rare spectacle for an Oxford audience.