Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ed Wightman
Canberra Repertory, Theatre 3
28 March - 12 April, 2014
Review by Len Power
It’s apparently thirty years since Canberra Rep did a Shakespeare play and the last one they did was, you guessed it, ‘Twelfth Night’.
Shakespeare’s comedy is set in a mythical kingdom called Illyria. The story concerns a shipwrecked brother and sister, a gender bending disguise, a rather cruel practical joke and a Duke and a Lady with romance on their minds.
Ed Wightman’s attractive production plays out on a clever and flashy set designed by Quentin Mitchell. The show boasts some excellent performances. Standouts were Sam Hannan-Morrow as an audience-pleasing and rather modern Sir Toby Belch, Lainie Hart as a very funny and quirky Olivia, Peter Holland as a delightfully dopey Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Jerry Hearn as a hilarious and ultimately pitiful Malvolio and Tim Sekuless, singing nicely and giving a performance of great appeal as a kind of wandering minstrel rather than the usual Court Fool. There were some uneven performances amongst other cast members who were not up to the demands of the text.
Lighting design by Chris Ellyard worked well apart from an unfortunate opening night glitch that plunged the cast into almost darkness for a few moments. Full marks go to the cast onstage at the time who continued on as if nothing had happened. The costume designs by Heather Spong were colourful and suited the 1930s setting. Unfortunately the dress worn by Kate Blackhurst was not very flattering and that worn by Lainie Hart had some hem problems. Malvolio’s funny costume with the yellow stockings and cross-garters served the actor very well and delighted the audience.
The director’s idea to set the play around the 1930s worked fine. It’s been well-staged and moves smoothly at a good pace. The choice of songs from the era rather than the words as published in the text was a nice touch and added atmosphere to the play. Scene changes were well planned and executed. However, there seemed no point in having a woman play the role of Fabian dressed as a man. This caused some confusion as the plot also required Viola to appear, for good reason, as a man for most of the play.
Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining and frequently quite funny production of one of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays. It’s good to see Canberra Rep producing one again after all these years.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM’s ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 30 March 2014.