An Evening of Delights - Twelfth Night

What a pleasurable evening was spent in watching Chew Valley’s production of Twelfth Night!  From the shipwreck at the commencement, to the revelations in the final scene, the cast and production team gave an entertainment that delighted the eye, the ear and the heart.

Twelfth Night is full of delightful reverses: women disguised as boys, drunken guests overturning order and outstaying their welcome, fools with licence to offend and the puritanical Malvolio humiliated by his own pretensions and gullibility.  The cast brilliantly captured Shakespeare’s sparkling wit as he allows the Lords of Misrule to disport themselves for a season before restoring order with revealed truths and the triumph of love.  The affecting scenes between Orsino, Cesario (Viola in disguise) and Olivia were played with great skill and a loving attention to the poetry of the lines.  These presented just the right counter-balance to the carnival comedy provided by Feste (imaginatively cast as three disreputable women) and the gulling of Malvolio.

It is invidious to name names in a production which used double casting to widen participation. However, I cannot resist noting that Gabriel Kelly as Sir Toby Belch (gurning to ferocious and hysterical effect) and Thomas Hope as Sir Andrew Aguecheek (played as a character from the pages of P.G. Wodehouse) surrendered themselves to such a pitch of foolery as to give virtuoso performances!

The use of dance to portray the storm and ship-wreck, imaginative staging and sound effects to evoke Malvolio’s imprisonment and a simple but effective set and lighting scheme to contrast Orsino’s palace and the Countess’ house and garden all added to the audience’s delight. For me, the icing on the cake was music composed by Natalie Ward to provide new and refreshing settings of the songs from the play.

Congratulations to the whole ensemble of players and production team, but most of all thanks to the dedicated staff who enabled the production to succeed so brilliantly – and especially the Director, Mr Conway!