Twelfth Night, Brockley Jack Theatre

Yard Players, following on from 2019’s King Lear, production is a fresh adaptation of this classic, emboldened by its talented cast.

When Viola washes up on the shores of Illyria, she witnesses the festivities first hand and is drawn into the schemes of the lovestruck Duke Orsino, and subjected to the antics of the anarchic Toby Belch. At first it’s all fun and games, but then things take a more serious turn…

Viola (played by Jessica Kinsey, who played Corderlia and the Fool is last year’s Lear) juggles her love for Duke Orsino (Duncan Drury) whilst disguised as his male servant, “Cesario” and also the attentions of Olivia (Candice Price) who is pursued by the Duke, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Drury) and her own servant Malvolio (Daniel Chrisostomou) after a prank by her maid Maria (Heloise Spring) and uncle Sir Toby (Pete Picton).

I am new to Twelfth Night, it just hasn’t come up on my radar and Yard Players’ production has made me want to find out more. It manages this complex comedy with multiple characters with a small number of talented actors. I thought {Insert actor} as Maria had the swagger of a bored, troublesome woman who has to find entertainment where she can with her drunken partner in crime Sir Toby and his idiot companion Sir Andrew. The cast had a fantastic command of the language and for the actors playing multiple rols there was real nuance in their performances. Drury contrasted his Sir Andrew and Duke well. There was one performance that made me gasp as I had failed to realise the two characters were played by the same actor; Daniel Chrisostomou brought a real gravitas rarely seen in any production let alone on the fringe. His Malvolio stuttered and seemed oblivious to the mockery made of him whilst his Antonio was astute and aware that his friend Sebastian (James Viller) would deny him (though this being a Shakespearean comedy there is always a twist).

I also enjoyed Heloise Spring as Maria; all hoop earring and smug looks but whose plans come crumbling down and exposes her vulnerability and role in society whilst Candice Price brought the humour and preening of a countess to the fore. It is a shame in James Eley’s production Kinsey felt so underused, after really shining in their previous collaboration.

I still lost that sense of time and place that was an issue for King Lear; the use of mobiles and modern music was well executed but I am not sure what the modern setting brought this production. It didn’t feel topical but it didn’t feel timeless either. It is clear this company have a good command of Shakespeare but seem to lack the skills to make the modern references feel relevant to the audience.

The production is on until 1 February 2020

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