By Paul Kiely
Photo by Clare Hawley.
Twelfth Night (Heads or Tails)
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Victor Kalka
A Virginia Plain in association with New Theatre inspired by Hamlet: Heads or Tails, created by Loud Mouth Theatre Company
542 King Street
Season: 6 – 23 January 2021. Bookings: https://newtheatre.org.au Duration: 155 minutes including 15-minute interval
If you like a good comedy and love story with surprises, look no further than William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night the New Theatre’s opening show for 2021 now playing.
Subtitled Heads or Tails, this production may differ each time it’s performed. The 12 actors have each learnt and rehearsed two characters, so each performance is prefaced by an on-stage coin toss to decide which role each will play. With 64 possible cast combinations, each actor must be either devoted Shakespeare fans or gluttons for punishment. In any case, the entire cast is very talented from what I saw.
“If music be the food of love play on”. This opening line sets the tone for the play, as a love triangle like no other is created, warped and cemented as only Shakespeare can do.
The story evolves around Viola who has just survived a shipwreck. Her twin brother Sebastian is lost, presumed drowned. Aided by the Captain, Viola dresses in men’s clothing and becomes ‘Cesario’. She then obtains work from Duke Orsino as a manservant.
Poor Orsino is lovestruck with the beautiful Olivia, who is shunning all male attention whilst grieving the death of her brother. This explains Orsino’s wish for more music, so he can ultimately rid himself of this lovesickness.
He uses Cesario (aka Viola) as a go-between himself and Olivia, which unwittingly ignites Olivia’s desires. Alas, her feelings are not for Orsino, but Cesario.
Confused? Yes, its complicated. But when is love not?
As other characters are introduced, a series of humorous twists lands love where it is meant to be, albeit somewhat surprisingly.
Well done to all cast members especially Zac Bush, Cameron Hutt, Rowena McNicol, Sarah Greenwood, Lucy Ross, Leonard Sun and Caitlin Williams. Tight performances as vindicated by the reactive audience.
Directed by Victor Kalka, the production is simple and efficient. There is active movement across the wide stage and the story is interspersed with occasional song (Composer Lachlan Massey). With three doors in the backdrop there is ample opportunity for creative entrances and exits.
Setting changes are not utilised, a minor disappointment which requires elevated attention from the audience.
“Better be a witty fool than a foolish wit”. The wit was classic Shakespeare and delivered throughout the performance with expert timing.
I recommend ‘Twelfth Night (Heads or Tails)’ for anyone seeking a humorous Shakespearean experience, as this production is not a tragedy.