In this familiar story of mistaken identities, pranks and debauchery there was some really entertaining characterisation, particularly Annemarie Highmore’s Olivia who developed from aloof ice queen to gangly smitten schoolgirl after falling in love with Viola disguised as Cesario, and David William Bryan’s Orsino was also nicely presented as a slightly proud silver fox. Another commendable performance came from Rachel Waring as a boyish and charming Viola.However, Daniel Jennings was the scene-stealer throughout with his clowning and outrageous singing. More often than not nowadays productions of Shakespeare’s plays are multi-roled and it did feel a little strange in this instance to watch a full sized cast – for example, seeing Sebastian only for his three or so scenes made him particularly forgettable, whereas the reason Daniel Jennings stole the show might be because he did get to hotfoot it from Antonio to Feste, and in one scene also become a hilarious American evangelical Sir Topas.
The production lacked consistent direction – the glamorously dressed women seemed to be sunning themselves on the coast of St Tropez whilst the men appeared to be stumbling around Scarborough on a stag do: there was no coherent world or place in which the story was taking place. There was some very playful use of water, but the inclusion of an unattractive rectangular paddling pool at the front of the stage did not actually aid in bringing the seaside landscape into our imagination in the midst of the austere Castle Quarter.Production values were low, with little in terms of sound, light or costume and set design but the actors and the well-cut script were enough to carry the show through and make up for what might lack in artistic visuals. The company were comfortable with the verse and brought the text to life helping the audience follow the story and characters.
English Repertory’s Theatre’s Twelfth Night was not revolutionary, but it was fun. The company’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious and it is a very summery show, perfect for some light entertainment on a balmy night.