Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare
Directed by Ashley Wright
Starring Julien Arnold, Jordan Buhat, Dave Clarke, Alex Dawkins, Chayla Day, Emily Howard, Marc Ludwig, Jaimi Reese, Jake Tkaczyk
Timms Centre for the Arts
Now until Dec 3 (There will be a matinee performance on Thursday, December 1 at 12:30 p.m.)
Tickets: $12 Student, $25 Adult (available here)
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
This line, arguably one of Shakespeare’s more famous, is seductively said while an actress, dressed as a man, literally thrusts closer to her love interest. And, as is said later within the same scene, saucy it is.
From November 24th to December 3rd, the Bard is alive and well on the stage of the Timms Centre for the Arts through the production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Two twin siblings, Viola and Sebastian, are caught in a shipwreck and separated, both believing the other to be drowned. Individually, each finds solace in the love of another whom they cannot be with. The anguish of unrequited love follows Viola (dressed as a man and under the name of Cesario), as the woman she is courting, for the man that she loves, falls deeply in love with her — as a man. The play that spawned everybody’s favourite 2006 film (starring Amanda Bynes) is a confusing one, but one filled with wit, passion, and deceit. The irony of this classic gender-bending tale unfolds as part of the BFA Acting Class of 2017, alongside two equity actors, who together put a new spin on the iconic piece.
The audience entered to a bare stage, only adorned by the actors warming up. As the pre-show continued, they begin to interact with the people filling the seats in front of them as though there was nothing happening at all. But as soon as the eerie choral music begins, they snapped into the jolting chorus one would expect from a Shakespearean show.
This concept of self-reflexivity, giving the play an obvious sense of realism despite the wildly contrived plot, continued throughout the show; a row of costumes lined the very back of the stage, and actors changed clothing onstage a number of times. When they weren’t in focus, they were seated at the back, staring forward into the action almost in reflection of the audience on the other side of the stage.
A hyper-sexualized chorus, half-dressed in steampunk-esque lingerie and boxer shorts, took the stage and sang a (very helpful) song explaining their cross-dressing and shifted gender identities, stating also who they’ll have their eyes on throughout the piece.
As an ensemble, the cast shone brightly. In the role of Malvolio, Alex Dawkins stood out in all of her awkwardness in the portrayal of a man. Helplessly desperate out of love, wrapped in bright yellow stockings and cross-gartered, her embrace of the discomfort in the role was a riot to watch.
A smaller role which makes it’s presence felt is that of Sir Andrew, played by Jake Tkaczyk. The character is one of humour — but with an air of profound sadness laying underneath. The subtlety of this trait is easy to gloss over, but Tkaczyk played it well through particular facial expressions and small mannerisms.
The comedy of this production of Twelfth Night, which enthralled the audience with graceful movement, incredible awkward tension, and so many questions, ended in a well-deserved standing ovation.
“If music be the food of love, play on.” This may be the line that opened the play, but surely it’s also the one the audience related to most by the end, as they wanted nothing more than for the cast to play on.