Those who dread Shakespeare should not fear Theatre Erindale’s production of Twelfth Night. The production held this past Friday seamlessly blends Shakespeare’s antiquated language into a modern setting. With only two tables, two boxes, six chairs, and quite a few bottles of alcohol, the actors transformed a simple performance room in Deerfield Hall into two Italian courts.
Twelfth Night begins in a shipwreck, separating twins Viola (Karen Scora) and Sebastian (Lucas Blakely). Not knowing if her brother is dead or alive, Viola is rescued by a ship captain and disguises herself as a man in Orisino’s (Liam Galway) court, calling herself Cesario. This disguise launches a chain reaction of mistaken love. Underneath this drama is a plot to make a fool of the fastidious Malvolia (Holly May), who is the definition of a killjoy.
Other characters include Sir Andrew (Jacobe Rutigliano), Olivia (Marissa Orjalo), and Toby Belch (Yona Epstein Roth). The cast enjoyed many opportunities to improvise some quips into the play, with cups to bracelets flying all over the set. It’s a commendable trait to spontaneously adapt to the situation when props malfunction, and this cast did a superb job. The supporting cast performed enthusiastically, dancing or staggering across the stage as their character’s degree of sobriety dictated, which gave an energy that upheld the leads well. The performance of a shipwreck at the beginning created the feeling that the whole room tilted and swayed.
One critique I would offer for this performance of the play is to fix the disorganized audience placement. The stage was set in between two parts of the audience, one was about six rows on risers that held most of the audience. On the opposite side of the stage was a single row of chairs in front of the curtain separating backstage from the house. I sat in the lone row in front of the curtains and while this offered an interesting vantage point for some parts of the play, most of the play seemed skewed to visually appear better to the risers where most of the audience sat. Some of the actors made a noticeable effort to include the whole house in the play, while others didn’t seem to realize there were two divisions of audience members. The single row of chairs seemed unnecessary as there were some parts of the play that I could only partially see. As a result, I missed some actors’ lines entirely. I was still able to enjoy myself, but I found that the single row of chairs didn’t provide any extra benefit. Instead, it took away from my enjoyment of the performance.
While I enjoyed and laughed at all parts of the play, this is not a play that leaves you with a satisfied feeling at the end. While there is a resolution, it feels incomplete. Olivia finds herself married to a man she doesn’t know, Sir Andrew, who has had all his money stolen by Toby Belch and is left on the floor to cradle his injured head.
This play is like a never-ending party with its highs and lows and in the end, it’s an unsatisfied half-happy ending for all the characters involved.
Twelfth Night by Theatre Erindale will run until November 19.