Theatre in Wales

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Airy and colourful midsummer Shakespeare

Twelfth Night

Louche Theatre , Morlan Centre, Aberystwyth , July 24, 2012
Twelfth Night by Louche Theatre Twelfth Night” plays the same weekend as the last installment of the BBC’s “Hollow Crown” Shakespeare history series. The art direction in those four films uses a haunting palette of pewtery tones. Louche director Harry Durnall is also his own designer and his chosen colours for “Twelfth Night” are as different as might be. Four hangings are suspended from the Morlan’s ceiling in different primary colours. Durnall has placed lights on the floor that point straight upward. These have a double effect. They also bring into the visual field the venue’s best feature, its series of six trussed beams. To round out the feeling of light and air Caroline Clark has dressed the company of twenty-nine in satiny russets, greens and blues.

The plot of “Twelfth Night” is filled with pranks and japes. The production has an appropriate touch of playfulness in it. The action is relocated from the Dalmation Coast to an island, Ynys Llyria, situated not so far from Aberystwyth. Medi Jones-Jackson’s girlish Olifia is able to baffle newly stranded Viola with a few lines of Welsh beyond her comprehension.

Viola vies with Rosalind as Shakespeare’s most adorable creation. Emma Sims has charm a-plenty but genuine emotion too of pain at “myself would be his wife.” Tom O’Malley, Belch by name and belch in action, is red-nosed Sir Toby whose voice is able to slide across a couple of registers in his inebriation. Alex Gilbey’s lordly but tricked-upon Malvolio executes a vaulting slither when his mistress makes mention of bed.

Hazel Fairplay brings a toughness to Feste which spills over into a taunting harshness when she takes on the part of Sir Topaz. Sarah Banks is a soulful Sebastian. Sian Taylor’s Maria is dressed in nun-like headwear whose demureness belies the character’s friskiness. She, and Norma Izon’s Lady Fabian, look as if they had been cut from a Van der Weyden canvas.

This “Twelfth Night” carries the stamp of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages. It is a long way distant from Stratford, but the production has a lightness and scale that warrants that approval. When Orsino orders his musicians to play on, he is addressing six singers and five musicians on drums, flute and viol. Meurig Jenkins is composer and musical director. Matt Fullwood and JoJo Engelkamp are on sound. The soundscape has some birdsong on it; it is filled out with squawks from the real-life seagulls outside.

“Twelfth Night” has the best of last lines. Hazel Fairplay strums her lute and sings “And we’ll strive to please you every day.” Indeed so.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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