Twelfth Night – Review


Twelfth Night: Young Vic, London

Reviewed 12th October 2018


Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah and The Public Theater’s Oskar Eustis co-direct this extraordinary UK premiere. Mixing up Shakespeare with soulful melodies and R&B beats this musical adaptation of Twelfth Night aims to be fun, bright and vibrant. Telling the classic story of Viola and her twin brother Sebastian who wash up on the shores of Illyria. When Viola disguises herself as a man, a joyous whirlwind of gender-bending and unrequited love begins. This brand new adaptation also features a fantastic community chorus from Southwark and Lambeth with music and lyrics by the critically acclaimed songwriter Shaina Taub.

Twelfth Night has a carnival, party vibe from the moment the audience enter the auditorium. With brightly coloured lights, international flags and a cleverly created comic/cartoon inspired backdrop  the town of Illyria is brought into the 21st Century. The upbeat feel continues throughout this vibrant show. With its catchy songs and witty tale this musical adaptation is fun and fresh.

The involvement of the community chorus is fabulous. The enjoyment and passion of the cast is evident throughout the hour and a half performance. Gabrielle Brooks blows the audience away with her sensational voice and the interaction with characters Olivia and the Duke Orsino are hilarious without being over-staged or acted. Gerald Carey excels as the humorous Malvolio. Not only has Carey perfected his onstage charm and character arrogance, but the interaction between himself and the audience is fantastic. Natalie Dew’s Olivia is strong and out to get what she wants whilst Rupert Young is brilliant as the love-sick Duke Orsino. Melissa Allan adds a different dynamic to the show as Feste with her gorgeous voice often setting the mood for the scenes.

This is certainly a different way to view the Shakespeare tale. It might not be a hit with purist Shakespeare fans but it’s definitely engaging and will, no doubt, bring Shakespeare to a new audience. The songs, setting and costumes are truly modern, even to the point of Marlvolio using a Segway to get around, but this production stays true to Shakespeare’s story and a lot of the dialogue uses the original Shakespearean language.

The set, designed by Robert Jones, furthers this modern feel and along with the bright lighting by Tim Lutkin and the contemporary choreography by Lizzi Gee the whole production feels bright and vibrant. Mix this in with the clever use of R&B and soul this new musical is certainly something refreshingly current. This style of adaptation is definitely an area to be explored further. Perhaps if more classic plays and playwrights could be modernised and set to contemporary music it would encourage a whole new, younger generation to enjoy them and not see them as purely an obstacle to overcome during their GCSEs? With tickets already selling quickly, check out this fresh approach to Twelfth Night at the Young Vic now.

Twelfth Night is playing at the Young Vic until the 17th November 2018. For information and tickets click here.

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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