Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as a jukebox musical and set in the 1920s: a premise that will either excite or worry avid Shakespeare fans. OVO theatre company have decided to put this contemporary twist on one of Shakespeare’s classics for their latest production.
The cast open with Rihanna’s Umbrella in a cabaret style, which does not give off the strongest vocal start. Also, the backing dancer is distracting from the leads of Viola and Sebastian in this number, and feels a bit unnecessary throughout the production, despite her talent. However, slowly the premise gels into place, and the 20s renditions continuously improve – despite some lyrics feeling awkward within the time period.
The comedy of the piece is done excellently; with the tricking of Malvolia (a gender swapped Malvolio played by Faith Turner) a particular comedic highlight, along with Turner’s rendition of Beautiful by Christina Aguilera. The tricksters are all excellently played, with relative newcomer Hannah Francis-Baker’s voice being one of the standouts – and her amazing ability to quickly switch between vocalist and saxophonist. Overall, the fact the majority of the actors switch between playing instruments and singing, is frankly impressive.
Minor aspects of the production do feel coarse, but are saved by equally beautiful moments and some fresh twists to the tale. Faith Turner’s Malvolia is a particular stand out, as Turner makes us pity Malvolia and massively fleshes the character out. Her final moments on stage, with Lucy Crick as Viola, are so emotionally charged that this alone makes the production worth a watch; leaving the audience with something to think about as they leave the theatre.
Director Adam Nichols and team have given an original spin on the play. Likewise, the fact that the run-time has been cut down to 95 minutes, with no interval, paired with the modern songs, makes the production easily accessible to those not so familiar with Shakespeare. A thought-provoking production that brings both laughter and unexpected tears.