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Brighton Fringe 2012

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

Festival Shakespeare Company

Genre: Classical and Shakespeare


St Ann's Well Gardens


Low Down

The Festival Shakespeare company are back with another winner – this time, Twelfth Night, Or What You Will. Nick Quirke directs a fine cast in a production full of comic delights and star turns.


Twelfth Night is a love story. It is also a comedy. Festival Shakespeare Compay have taken on this much loved Shakespearian yarn and spun it into magic in St Ann’s Well Gardens.

How so? Firstly, we have their signature style. They’ve taken the high road and we have a Scottish flavour to the proceedings which allows a lot of growling and roaring in this part tartan-esque version. Yet what that achieves is permission for a full-on, knockabout stint from Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew and colleagues. Seth Morgan is on top form as Feste and his singing is a treat. Doug Devaney’s Sir Toby is a comedy one-man act it itself, yet all of the clowning, the physical banter all joins up and the whole play flows beautifully from one scene to the next. We have comedy woven into a narrative that flows well from start to finish. This is very accessible Shakespeare.

Staging is simple and, as ever, makes full, creative, and skilled use of the gardens and we, the audience, sit among, not apart from the action. It happens before us, it happens around us and, when the lights go on in the second half, there’s a magical feeling to the space.

It’s a true ensemble performance and Joanna Rosenfield’s Olivia is both passionate and funny, a perfect foil for the disguised Kitty Newbury. But the whole cast are top drawer and Nick Quirke’s direction ensures the pace never slackens and attention is held until the very end. Timing is so good here. Not one of the cast falls short.

I felt that, on occasions, the comedy upstaged the drama a little too much. There is tenderness in this love tale and it needs to be able to come through a bit more. But that doesn’t spoil a performance that romps hilariously in places, but also finds its correct pace when we need to be able to take in the story and stay with the language. The production overall is so fluent, it is yet again, a masterclass in staging outsdoor Shakespeare on what was a fairly chilly night. Twelfth Night is one of the hot tickets of the Fringe. Yet again, they’ve served up a treat.