Saturday, 5 January 2002

Twelfth Night, ASC, Jan 5, 2002

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

The Australian Shakespeare Company

Royal Botanic Gardens Gate E 
Running through summer, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, Jan 5, 2002

Staging a play in the Botanical Gardens is almost fail safe. We arrive with blanket, picnic and a bottle of wine. The ducks quack at sunset. The bats emerge after dark. Only a stray police helicopter shatters the calm.

Director, Glenn Elston locates Twelfth Night,  this year's Shakespeare, in a slightly less idyllic setting against the wall of the glasshouse. The advantage is that the voices are more audible because the space is confined.

Twelfth Night is a comedy-romance with a dark edge but Elston's production plays it for laughs and love. Any potential grimness is underplayed. The show's great strengths are the visual gags and slapstick routines from Sir Toby Belch, (Brendan O'Connor) Sir Andrew Aguecheek  (Bruce Woolley) and Fabian.  (James Shaw)

The three observe their practical je on Malvolio, (Michael Bishop) the pompous and puritanical servant of Lady Olivia, (Helen Hopkins) from secret viewing posts. They bob up and down like sideshow clowns in the best form of knockabout humour.

The play is a grab bag of mistaken identity, cross-dressing, separated identical twins, lovelorn or grieving masters and mistresses and bawdy servants.

Twelfth Night is a raunchy Shakespeare play that will appeal to those who do not like the heavy, wordy tragedies by the Bard.

The actors and director toss into the mix of love and naughtiness, a seasoning of Australianisms, contemporary musical references and jokes.

Woolley is a great find. His Sir Andrew is relaxed, suitably goofy and hilarious. He is a fine foil for the outrageousness of O'Connor's grotesque Sir Toby. The bawdiness is emphasised by plenty of burping, farting and peeing jokes.

Kevin Hopkins  as Feste the Jester  acts as Master of Ceremonies, addressing the audience and leading actors and audience in songs. Kate Campbell has the requisite bounce and cheekiness for the servant, Maria.  Helen Hopkins is regal as Lady Olivia and, as her suitor Orsino, Phil Cameron-Smith  is an attractive and stately presence.

The role of Viola is a difficult one, being that of a girl dressed as a boy falling in love with a man. Marisa Warrington is charming in the role and gives it her best shot but lacks the necessary vocal power and control.

If you want a pleasant night in the gardens with an entertaining show to boot, Twelfth Night is the one.

By Kate Herbert

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