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Review: TWELFTH NIGHT, Kew Gardens Theatre

A charming production in an enchanting setting

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT, Kew Gardens Theatre

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT, Kew Gardens Theatre What could be more charming than watching a Shakespearean comedy in the heart of Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew as the sun sets? Peter Hamilton Dyer's Twelfth Night is a light-hearted romp through one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies.

The fast-paced story of love, romance and mistaken identities is chaotic and very funny. Separated from her twin brother Sebastian in a shipwreck, Viola disguises herself as a boy called Cesario. She becomes a servant to Orsino, who sends her to court the Olivia for him, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario instead. Eventually Sebastian turns up and causes even more confusion, chaos and comedy.

The cast, who also play musical instruments and sing throughout, is a jovial crew. Matthew Burns lacks some of the necessary melancholy of the character of Orsino, but is charming in the role and brings an element of honesty to the superficial character. He has lovely chemistry with Megan Louise Wells' Viola, who is suitably quick-witted, engaging and practical.

Steve Watts is a hoot, embracing the sybaritic and outrageous behaviour of Sir Toby, the constantly drunken cousin. Lewis Goody has great fun as his sidekick Aguecheek, Neerja Naik is nicely melodramatic as Olivia and Jonathan Oldfield is a very likable Sebastian.

Peter Hamilton Dyer has extensive experience of Shakepspeare and directs the play with a real lightness. The first half feels a little tentative at points and does not always exploit the comedy, but the second act picks up the pace and the energy, particularly having the cast mingle with the audience at points.

As is the case with so much Shakespeare these days, the play is set in another era; this time the 1930s. This allows costume designer Isobel Pellow a free rein, with some lovely period dress, such as Sir Andre Aguecheek's outrageous Henley striped suit and straw boater and Feste's gangster-looking outfit with fedora and spats.

The period setting also allows for some wonderful music, (albeit from different decades), such as lovely renditions of "It Had To Be You" and "Mack the Knife". Jonathan Oldfield's version of "The Very Thought Of You" brimmed with quiet emotion.

Peter Small has nature's lighting to frame the show, but his own use of warm yellows and pinks reflects the light cast by the setting sun beautifully.

Sound is an issue with this production; the cast fights bravely against the overhead plane noise throughout, but there was also some hollowness coming from the speakers on press night and the volume does need turning up in general to ensure every word is heard.

Tickets include access to the gardens, but do not include a chair, so make sure you bring a blanket to sit on, at the very least.

It will be a relief to some that there is nothing new or ground-breaking in this production. If you want an entertaining play, performed by an energetic cast in a magical setting, there is no better way to spend an evening.

Twelfth Night is at Kew Gardens Theatre until 29 August

Photo Credit: Kevin Murphy

From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is always... (read more about this author)

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