Theatre Erindale presented a very captivating and witty spectacle of William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. The play follows shipwrecked Viola’s (Esther McLachlin) arrival at Illyria, where she disguises herself as a boy named Cesario to serve Duke Orsino (Mussie Berhane). What follows then are cases of mistaken identity which result in some characters getting their happy endings while others are left in misery.
The performance was incredibly spectacular, especially considering the small size of the room and the limited number of props used. This is similar to Shakespeare’s era, where the stage would be bare and actors would use their skill as performers to enchant the audience.
The opening scene showed Orsino sprawled on the table, pining for Olivia’s (Gillian Lonergan) love. In general, the script stayed true to the Shakespearean text. However, some lines used in this performance incorporated modern colloquialism.
For example, in the opening scene when Feste the Dool (Aria Sharma) inhales Orsino’s drug. Orsino turns to him and exclaims, “Yo!”
Theatre Erindale’s production of this play emphasized a gendered interpretation of the Shakespearean text. Toby Belch (Kyra Keith), Antonia (Nicole Bonder), and Feste the Fool are all characters that are men in the script. However, the cast that plays them are women. There is a clear gender reversal here.
The character Antonio’s change to Antonia is especially interesting because in the play, Antonio seems to be deeply in love with Sebastian. However, there is no room for homosexual feelings in the world that Antonio lives in. By making Antonio a woman, the performance made her romantic feelings for Sebastian painfully clear, and it is made all the more obvious when Antonia is left disappointed in the end when he marries Olivia. Similarly, portraying Toby Belch as a woman brings a different perspective to the play as she and Maria (Mo Zeighami) have a romance from the start which culminates in their off-stage wedding.
The costumes used were completely modern attire, and it worked well along with the other modern elements in the performance, such as the use of cellphones and a laptop in place of letters. In one scene Antonia gives Sebastian (Lucas Blakely) her “purse”, which in this interpretation was a credit card. I liked how similar the actors playing Sebastian and Viola looked. In the last scene when the identity crisis is finally solved, both characters were dressed exactly the same.
The most amusing performance was the pompous Malvolio (Cameron Doherty), who is Olivia’s steward. His uptight nature and self-righteousness cause other characters to trick him into dressing up in yellow stockings with cross-garters. This role was done extremely well; from the comical way that Malvolio ran, to his exaggerated facial expressions which accompanied lines like, “To be Count Malvolio!”
His role started out comically, yet ends on a more tragic note when he is locked in a dark room by Toby and the others. Theatre Erindale did a very good job of demonstrating how unfairly Malvolio was treated, and how the play has grave undertones. Similarly, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Derek Brockbank) had many comical lines like “What is ‘Pourquoi’?” which prompted laughter from the audience; yet he too was left disappointed and alone in the end.
Dr. Holger Syme, director of drama studies, stated in the Program Note how Twelfth Night is a comedy about lonely people, and contains a number of “abandoned and crushed lovers for whom no one spares much of a thought.” This is present throughout the play and especially in the last scene where Antonia, Sir Andrew, and Feste are the ones left alone on the stage, after a distraught Malvolio has walked off swearing he will get revenge.
Overall, the performance was outstanding and thoroughly entertaining. It is clear that there was tremendous effort put into bringing the play to life. Not only were the characters, plot and dialogue true to Shakespeare, but also the themes that the play involves.