The Bard in the park: (L-R) Alicia Charles (Olivia), Jennifer Rhodes (Maria) and Amy Downham (Viola) in a scene from Twelfth Night at Brockwell Park
Following a short run at Morden Hall Park, a new production of Twelfth Night opened at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill on July 3. The production features a cast of nine, and is set on a simple stage. Of course, with William Shakespeare’s words, there isn’t much need for props. Of all the plays of The Bard I have seen, Twelfth Night is one of the more uplifting and fun and was hoping this production would do the play justice. Arriving at the open air stage just beside Grade II-listed Brockwell House at the top of the hill in the park, I was keeping an open mind with my expectations. However, was pleasantly surprised to find them surpassed. While Shakespeare’s language can be hard work to understand, the emotion and timing by the excellent cast made them easy to decipher.
The production is set during the 1960s in the Mediterranean, with twins Viola (Amy Downham) and Sebastian (Paul Hayward) arriving separately on the island of Illyria after being shipwrecked. Heartbroken with grief thinking her brother has drowned, Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy and finds work with the dashing Duke Orsino (Adrian Irvine). Orsino is lovesick for Countess Olivia (Alicia Charles) and employs Viola to woo her on his behalf. Unbeknownst to him, his right hand man ‘Cesario’ is actually a woman… and pining for him. Rather uncomfortably for Viola, she realises that Olivia has fallen for her, believing her to be a man. The love triangle soon becomes a love square when Sebastian arrives on the scene – with all the locals believing he is Cesario. Viola fighting off the attentions of a persistent Olivia makes for hilarious scenes.
Simple staging: The simple set leaves the focus on the actors and The Bard’s brilliant script
Providing a hilarious subplot is Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (Anthony Glennon), who spends his time drinking and making mischief with his niece’s gentlewoman Maria (Jennifer Rhodes), Sir Andrew Aghecheek (Andrew Pepper) and court jester Feste (Morgan Philpott). They end up targeting Olivia’s steward Malvolio (Philip Childs) in a bid to amuse themselves, causing much discomfort for Olivia.
The play was divided into two acts, which moved very swiftly. Unlike with some other Shakespeare productions, it was easy to keep up and the audience were frequently in hysterics as the chaos unfolded. While I found the cast all excellent, Pepper’s Andrew and Childs’ portrayal of the ‘most notoriously abused’ Malvolio were particularly entertaining. On a warm summer night, the intimate setting was relaxing and quaint. I can highly recommend the production, so check it out before it closes.
- The Attic Theatre Co & Sixteenfeet production of Twelfth Night or What You Will Run runs from July 3 – 14 just beside Brockwell Hall at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill. Evening performances nightly 7.15pm, matinee performances 2.30pm (July 11) and 4pm (July 13). Tickets: £10-£17. Nearest train: Herne Hill (10 minutes from Victoria or Blackfriars). For more information and tickets, visit the Twelfth Night website.
To find out what else is on in London this month, read Guide to what’s on in London in July 2013
Also at Brockwell Park on 20-21 July is the Lambeth Country Show. To read review of last year’s show, click here.
The open-air theatre is located beside Brockwell Hall
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