Thursday 14 June 2012

Twelfth Night - Greenaway Productions @ Drayton Arms Theatre

Twelfth Night marks the debut production for new theatre company Greenaway Productions, a London-based actor-led company.  Their focus is on classical works and this is the first of two Shakespeare plays being performed at the newly re-opened Drayton Arms Theatre (the second being The Tempest).

Twelfth Night is probably Shakespeare's best known comedy and director Thomas Yarrow chose to play things safe with a fairly straightforward interpretation.  The simple staging consisted of classical collonades laced with ivy and, at the centre, a water fountain used with great comic effect to splash and dunk the actors.  The emphasis, therefore, was on the acting and the plot.

As is often the case, the comic subplot involving the deception of Malvolio is far more interesting than the primary narrative.  Graham Elwell's turn to madness as the churlish steward was hilariously played, foiled by the cartoonish gang of misfits led by Virginia Byron's giggling Maria and Sid Herbert's expressive Sir Toby Belch.  Ed Martineau was less successful, his Sir Andrew Aguecheek a fidgeting public schoolboy.

The real star was Joshua Manning as the gentle fool Feste, who showed great stage presence and who's resonant bass tones and guitar playing provided musical accompaniment.  Nadia Clifford also shone as Cesario, with boyish charm and modern mannerisms.

Yet this hints at a flaw in the production, which had a slight lack of focus in its concept.  Yarrow seemed unsure whether this was a traditional Twelfth Night or an update for contemporary audiences.  The acting, added modern mannerisms to Shakespeare's script, which worked for some characters more than others, whilst the music used offered a diverse range of styles.  The audience entered to some traditional lute music, whilst orchestral interludes accompanied some of the scenes, and Feste's singing at times bordered on Elvis-esque blues.  A more unified style would have been beneficial, perhaps utilising Manning's musical ability to transform Feste into an omnipresent balladeer and tie the scenes together.

At its core, though, this production of Twelfth Night was lucid and easily digestible for an entertaining evening of laughs, lyrical and witty poetry, and, of course, cross-dressing.


Watch: Twelfth Night runs from 5th-30th June, with The Tempest following from 3rd-21st July.