‘Twelfth Night’ was communal.
Shakespeare’s works have deep, rich roots in community theatre. Since their origins, people have stood shoulder to shoulder in the mud together to watch a production spin out before their eyes. St Luke’s Theatre Society captured that very essence of a community; of coming together for their production of ‘Twelfth Night’.
The show itself was as hilarious as it was absurd. For those unfamiliar, the plot centres on twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are shipwrecked and separated on the island of Ilyeria. From this, a farce of masquerading and mistaken identity, of secret love and Fool’s mischief ensues.
Directed by Matthew Hobbs, ‘Twelfth Night’ embraced classic ideals of Shakespearean theatre. From the modern dress, through to a simple, but appropriate set design, Hobbs let the weight of the production sit on the actors and their use of the language. Overall a soundly directed piece, the production kept moving forward and cleverly allowed the actors to bring plenty of themselves onto the stage.
As the cross-dressing Viola, Emily McCormick gave a solid, grounded performance and drew plenty of laughs from the audience. There were opportunities were some of the physicality could have been explored more, to highlight the different stories that played out, but at all times McCormick was well balanced and steady and brought both humour and pathos to the role.
Beguiled love interest Orsino spent much of the show pining after a love he could not have, and Garry Condeseres revelled in the role. The moments of “if you were a woman” with McCormick were hilarious, and brought the audience neatly into the guise of the show, sharing untold secrets layered over yet more secrets.
Megan Bennett rounded out the love-triangle as a pouty and commanding Olivia. She brought strong energy to the stage and gave Olivia a presence that radiated over the top of the servants, which clearly showed her dominance as the high ranking official onstage. Bennett’s energy often led to her not being able to stand still, and her performance could have strengthened from a little more “stand-and-deliver”, but those moments were fleeting, and did not detract overall.
Manservant Malvolio was played lovestruck, pompous, and as boorish as he was arrogant by Barry Haworth. He happily strut the stage as the domineering Steward, and seemed even more at home in his yellow stockings and crossed garters. Haworth’s irritable and tenacious relationship with Sharon White’s Maria provided some of the most comedic moments of the night. White should also be commended for her strong stage presence and command of the language. Showing a clear understanding of her subtext at all moments onstage.
The trio that caused most of the problems on our visit to the land of Ilyeria were Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Feste the Fool, played by Chris Carroll, Jason Nash (who also had a wonderful turn as a Sea Captain), and Leo Bradley respectively. These three had a loose, but upbeat chemistry that kept all of their scenes rollicking along, and gave the night much of its humour. Of special note were The Fool’s costumes – Bradley’s small pieces constantly changed every time he was offstage, no matter if it was for 10 seconds or 10 minutes.
The small but hard-working cast was rounded out by Chris Robinson and Kim Jennings who played Sebastian and Antonia. Their parts were small, but they both brought a strong commitment to their roles. Jennings, in particular, made striking choices in her characterisation, and the final moments of the show were particularly fun.
The night was full of wonderful community spirit in the finest of Shakespearean and theatrical traditions. Everything from the warm welcome and glass of wine on arrival (and on a rainy Brisbane night), to the raffle proceeds being donated to help the homeless, and the company history printed in the programme. There was a togetherness that radiated through the small theatre, and it echoed back to the earliest days of the globe. One could almost feel the warmth of the candles and smell the sawdust in the air as the audience gathered. ‘Twelfth Night’ was a joyous celebration of what communities can achieve when they come together.
‘Twelfth Night’ plays until Saturday, 23 March 2019 at St Luke’s Theatre Society. Get your tickets at https://stlukestheatre.asn.au.