With so many different Shakespeare productions striving to do something unique, sometimes it's best to see something that's simply a well done, pleasant production. This version of Twelfth Night from Iris Theatre is delightfully unfussy, with excellent acting and plenty of charm.
There remains a small gimmick in that this is a promenade performance around the gardens of St Paul's Church, as part of the company's regular summer season. Hayfever aside, watching Shakespeare performed outside can be a magical experience and Twelfth Night delivers. Scene by scene we are gently ushered to different sections of the garden, delicately dressed with subtle lighting and sailing paraphernalia - the aftermath of the opening storm. Walking between scenes may not be to everyone's taste, but it provides a welcome change of pace that neatly breaks up the action. If anything, the final scene inside the church feels oddly constrained by comparison, the acoustics hampering diction.
Outside, though, the actors project well over the ambient noise with clear diction, cleverly using the theatrical space under the slick direction of Vik Sivalingam. As ever with Twelfth Night, the yellow breeches subplot proves most entertaining: Henry Wyrley-Birch plays a hilariously eccentric Aguecheek (also doubling as Sebastian), Anne-Marie Piazza is a devilishly naughty Maria, and Tony Bell's final moments as Malvolio are full of pathos. Elsewhere in this colourful cast, Nick Howard-Brown is an impish Feste and Olivia Onyehara has regal presence as Olivia.
As arguably Shakespeare's most popular comedy, this is a lucid and approachable production that's lively, well-paced and above all amusingly entertaining. This is aided by a creative mix of modern and traditional costumes and some delightful music from composer Harry Blake performed throughout by the cast. The stunning backdrop of St Paul's Church - a place of quiet tranquility in the heart of London - only adds to the ambience.
Watch: Twelfth Night runs at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden until 24th July.
Photos: Hannah Barton