The play began with the Duke Orsino reflecting on his hopeless passion for the local Countess Olivia. The next scene introduces Viola washed-up on the shores of Illyria in a violent storm which unhappily separates her from her beloved brother Sebastian. Viola disguises herself as a man and serves the Duke as a go-between between him and the Countess who in no time at all falls in love with Orsino’s messenger Cesario who, in turn, excites the passions of Orsino. Meanwhile, laughter was never far away with the entry of the foolish Sir Andrew Aguecheek, his friend the permanently drunk Sir Toby Belch and his sweetheart Maria who soon plan to get their revenge against the kill-joy Malvolio. The famous scene where Malvolio is tricked into wearing yellow stockings did not disappoint in its comic effect.
Cesario and Duke Orsino.
The young actors seemed to have little difficulty in speaking Shakespeare’s verse in a way which combined understanding and a feeling for the underlying poetry of the language. Julianne Dinisio, in her first leading role, gave an outstanding performance as Viola, disguised as Cesario. Her acting caught the emotional confusion of the character perfectly, particularly in her scenes with Duke Orsino, played with authority and intelligence by Ethan Northcutt.
At the same time the audience was awestruck with her fighting skills in the later dual scenes with Sir Andrew, performed with terrific aplomb by Sergey Aleksentev. The mannerisms and voice of performance perfectly captured the loneliness of the character as well as his ridiculous foolishness.
Martin Meerding triumphed as Malvolio, particularly in the scenes of painful smiling and his wearing of the yellow stockings in front of his mistress, Olivia, but also in his later powerful scenes with the Fool Feste in prison and his final exit in Act 5 where his painful cry of “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!” echoed around the auditorium.
Rachel Miller acted the hugely challenging role of the Countess Olivia with poise and intelligence in a performance that gradually revealed the emotional vulnerability of the character.
Bobbie Frefel and Ploy Ottesen made a superb pairing as Sir Toby Belch and the servant Maria, bringing on a wave of riotous comic energy on each of their entrances.
Central to the play is the comic, but also slightly unsettling, presence of the Fool, Feste and Daniel Bowler succeeded superbly in the role, not only in his off-beat delivery of the lines but also in his excellent singing of the many songs in the production, such as the Beatles Yesterday and Love is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse.
Geoffrey Taylor, Sage Sharif and Harsh Dixit all gave polished performances in their respective roles of the pirate Antonio, Sebastian and Fabian. Indeed, there were no weak links in the acting of Twelfth Night, which benefitted also from the stylish singing of Emily Miller at the start of the evening and the expert presence of the Year 8 Dance group in the interval, all adding to the nightclub ambience of Club Illyria.
The joyous dance by the whole company to the accompaniment of Mike Oldfield’s sprightly English tune Portsmouth provided the perfect ending to what was a thoroughly entertaining evening.
Feste sings The Wind and the Rain.