Twelfth Night

Photo: Scott Rylander

Twelfth Night

Wolverhampton Grand


Watermill Theatre transport their production of Twelfth Night to a 1920’s prohibition setting, with hot music and wild parties.

Paul Hart directs a production that oozes life thanks to its young cast and dynamic concept. The iconic comedy packs a roaring punch and Shakespeare’s original story was set in the mystical world of Illyria, where Orsino is the Duke.

After a shipwreck, Viola finds herself stranded in the new world and believes her twin brother to have died in the storm. Upon hearing of Orsino and his pining love for the beautiful Olivia, Viola takes it upon herself to create the match, dressing as a man to bring the couple together.

In true Shakespearean style however, Viola’s original plan goes wrong and within her disguise, she starts to fall in love with Orsino while Olivia falls in love with her as a man.  

In Hart’s production, Illyria takes the shape of an underground speakeasy filled with music and good times. The actors look sharp in their Roaring Twenties’ costumes as they play soulful tunes live to create an atmosphere of living life to the full.

The talented cast are all seasoned musicians in their own right, each playing an instrument or demonstrating splendid singing with swinging harmonies  and music from brass, guitar and strings.

Musical talent aside, their mastery of the script and brilliant delivery create a wonderful experience, as they take command of the fast-paced comedy. Each scene is executed to perfection and each character becomes larger than life.

Lauryn Redding’s portrayal of Sir Toby Belch is particularly on form. Her Northern twang is a nice touch to her howling interpretation of the character usually played by a man. She provides a strong comedy to the drunken character.

The concept of a prohibition era sets each scene on fire. Orsino’s court becomes a popping club and the audience are often invited on to the stage to participate in the dancing. Scene changes are executed brilliantly as the talented cast create harmonious swinging tunes between each act. A particularly entertaining piece is that of a new version of the popular song Royals by Lorde, which now has a swing theme sung by Peter Dukes as Malvolio and backed up by the bopping cast.

Every opportunity is taken to create pure enjoyment and the exceptional cast makes this version of Twelfth Night one of the funniest and most entertaining productions to date.  The famous ‘yellow stockings scene’ is a hoot, giving the perfect set up for when Olivia meets her once proper butler smiling in eccentric clothing.

Twelfth Night might be a comedy, but there are tragic moments too, and director Hart makes sure to emphasise the differences. Duke’s performance as Malvolio in prison is a chilling break from the raucous mood created by the toe-tapping music and parties, emphasising Duke’s talent.

There are also emotionally charged scenes with Antonia, played by Emma McDonald with the most fantastic voice, who in her loyalty to Sebastian, professes to do anything to defend him.

This production is a brilliant display of young talent and is a true celebration of the works of Shakespeare. It will leave you wanting to master a musical instrument and dance late into the night. It is forward thinking and hugely entertaining. It would be the perfect fit for the RSC stage.

Elizabeth Halpin


Index page Grand Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre