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Twelfth Night | Photos

  • Twelfth Night ran at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds from Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th March, and at the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, from Wednesday 22nd April to Saturday 2nd May.

    Bradley played the part of Sebastian, who along with his twin sister Viola, is washed up on the shores of Illyria following a shipwreck.

    Set in 1819, at the time the Theatre Royal was built, this production exploited to the fullest, the unique relationship between the actors and the audience, which this magnificent Georgian theatre provided.

    The piece rediscovered the excitement of soliloquies addressed to people you can actually see, the cheeky pleasure of asides, and how to wrest support from one character to another in a battle of wits.

    Twelfth Night at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
    Published Date: 23 March 2009
    By Mary Dunk

    Twelfth Night, when Christmas trees are recycled and the tinsel disappears for eleven months, has always been the excuse for up-ending normality.

    Shakespeare's great comedy, unusually for the time, shows a woman running her life quite efficiently.

    Duke Orsino, supposedly a powerful nobleman, sits about on cushions moping and being soppy.

    Anna Hope showed Olivia's bright intelligence and enthusiasm for life – that she couldn't spot that Orsino's page was a cross-dressing girl can be forgiven.

    She captured Olivia's haughtiness and sense of fun, but also her kindness when Malvolio was shown to be the victim of a practical joke.

    Oliver Senton as Orsino, distracted by love, wasn't too sure about the page to start with, but landed up marrying him/her anyway. His melancholy, fed by music, the food of love, was finely captured.

  • Green baubles hanging over the uncluttered stage suggested festive decorations whilst a wintry tree scene was projected onto the back with an illusory tree at stage centre.

    This production, directed by Abigail Anderson and designed by Libby Watson, enabled us to concentrate on the language and characters more closely. Attention was well rewarded.

    Sirs Andrew Aguecheek and Toby Belch, nominally aristocrats but with no sense and fewer manners, are splendid roles for acting up. Oliver Senton and Tim Frances seized opportunities by the throat and clowned superbly.

    The peroxided Aguecheek was quick to drop his Gladstone bag, packed to leave, when he knew there was to be fun afoot. They easily rival the professional joker Feste (Eamonn O'Dwyer).

    Maria, (Mary Ryder) the servant who stepped out of her station to mock her betters, dealt with their idiocies patiently and was only too ready to wind them up a bit more.

  • Malvolio, Olivia's chief servant, became their "common recreation" – that is, the butt of all their jokes. Persuaded by a forged letter that cross-gartered yellow stockings were sexy enough to attract the boss, he went for it.

    Michael Onslow celebrated this difficult role enthusiastically, showing the mortification when his tricksters reveal the truth sensitively.

    The twins washed up from a shipwreck by the sea are not as expected. Sebastian the brother (Bradley Clarkson), says little and does not appear very often, but gets the rich lady in the end.

    His more forthright sister Viola, disguised as a boy, ventures into match making and dominates the plot.

    Wittily independent, Amy Humphreys took on her disguise stylishly, and it became easy to accept that she was both boy and girl. The moving moment when the twins were reunited was delicately handled.

    Music both opens and closes the action, charming the senses and making anything possible.

  • Audiences have the freedom to interact with the cast, who make full use of the Theatre Royal's extensive staging, ensuring the continuing success of the play once described by Samuel Pepys as "silly". What a lot of fun he must have missed.

    ©Mary Dunk, 2009.

    Stately Regency Shakespeare.

    This seems an odd choice for Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal to bring to Basingstoke as part of the venues’ long-term relationship. This is not because of the play, but this production seems to be very much made for Bury's Regency Theatre Royal, not 20th century civic Basingstoke.

    With Jane Austen costumes, and with the house-lights remaining on throughout, (you can imagine catching glimpses of the wonderful Bury auditorium) this is Shakespeare as Regency comedy. The lighting means the audience is treated as part of the cast (perhaps because there are only 8 professionals on stage) as the asides are made to them, often as questions or challenges that a Basingstoke audience is too polite to take up – audibly at least. Their hard work continues with the need to believe that Amy Humphreys’ petite and straight haired Viola could be mistaken for Bradley Clarkson’s beefy and curly Sebastian.

    Shakespeare has a cast-list of 18 plus assorted lords, musicians and sailors; here 8 actors have to bustle about to keep all the parts on the go, and this means that there is no strength in depth in the casting of the contrasting households of Olivia and Orsino.

  • Although neat, the set of gauzes with hanging green glass globes (3-D Regency wallpaper?) on an otherwise bare stage doesn’t help this impression of thinness, as specific locations lack detail.

    There is some clever acting to compensate in Anna Hope’s Olivia who combines the solemn battiness of trying to remain in mourning for a brother for 7 years with the wilder battiness of instantly falling for the Count’s slightly built messenger. The music is safe in Eamonn O’Dwyer’s hands and pleasant voice; he copes well too with the slightly bi-polar combination of Feste with Fabian - clown and thug in one. Oliver Senton is entertaining in the affected and infinitely bendy Aguecheek, half of his double with the moody and pompous Orsino.

    Director Abigail Anderson keeps things moving but does not always find the essential contrasts between the good-humoured and the manic on which the fun of Twelfth Night rests.