By Ralph Wainer
After all these years, I’m still unsure as to why the play is called ‘Twelfth Night.’ Literary ignorance aside, Castle Theatre Company gave a first class performance of Shakespeare’s play, premiering in the beautiful setting of the Fellow’s Garden of the Castle. The stage was a simple park bench on the grass. Props were kept to a minimum, the most notable pieces being a human statue and those ‘croquet-hammer-things’, used both for sport and swordfights. The actors interacted with the audience on more than one occasion. One girl in the audience was the subject of romantic song and her hand chivalrously kissed; another received sexual propositions.
The acting was superb overall. Standout male performances were given by Phillipe Bosher as Sir Toby and Alex Prescot as Sir Andrew; together they formed a great duo. The roles were perfectly cast and Bosher and Prescot portrayed wonderfully colourful characters without overacting. Prescot must be commended for his flexibility during his hilarious dances and his ability to balance himself for so long on one leg. Regarding Bosher, I’ve never seen an actor drink so much with such passion on stage. It also must be stated that David Knowles as Feste did a great job at portraying the witty fool.
Standout female performances were given by Daisy Cummins as Olivia, who really made the audience laugh, and Jenny Walser as Viola, who induced much sympathy. I equally enjoyed the roles of the servants Maria and Fabian, played by Ellis-Anne Dunmall and Anna Bailey. All in all, the acting was simply great! In hindsight, the amount of same-sex flirting going on in this play is pretty insane. All managed to expertly exploit this comic situation.
The script of this performance was somewhat shortened from Shakespeare’s original. Although I really enjoyed Feste’s songs, his finale was omitted from the play and replaced with music. The director, Anna Bailey, decided to give a very light-hearted, comic rendition of the play without greatly emphasizing the more serious parts. For instance, one particularly emotional scene in the performance was almost immediately followed by a comic scene with Olivia to lighten up the mood. Even Katie Bailey’s rendition of the priest’s monologue managed to be funny, although I previously imagined it to be quite serious. The decision to direct a more ‘pure’ comedy was great, although this resolution could not be taken without the play losing some of its emotional drama. That said, however, Shaheen Ahmed gave a very good serious portrayal of Antonio, probably the only character in the play who regrettably had no jokes.
I very much recommend that everyone comes to see this show tonight! CTC will be touring later this summer across Southern England, Nicholas Nickleby style, and I am absolutely positive they will receive a great reception! Well done to everyone involved with this production!
Illustration: Livia Carron