With the performance of Twelfth Night which took place in the StAge on the 10thof April as part of the On The Rocks Festival, Shakespeare’s beloved comedy has now been performed every year in St Andrews for the last four years. This, however, was definitely the most unique and, in more ways than one, the most impressive production.
This classic Shakespearean romp was being performed by “The Aspects,” a group of Italian High School students who take drama classes after school to improve their English – and also, more importantly, their self-confidence. They performed a simplified version of the play in modern English, further adapted by the students’ school English teacher and themselves during the rehearsal process. This left them with a version which was accessible to them and to the audience, which brought to life the humour of the original text.
The cast were ambitious in their delivery a lot of the time, speaking at a good pace and keeping the action moving. Sometimes they spoke too fast to get all of the words out intelligibly, but this was a rare problem, and not one which hindered the audience’s appreciation of the action. Of the cast, a special mention must be given to the young actor playing Malvolio who was incredibly entertaining throughout, if slightly too drag queen-esque for a character who is usually rather dour. The performance of Sebastian was brilliant, with a few more line fumbles than other actors, but speaking confidently and moving well on stage. The young woman playing Sir Toby Belch (with a wonderfully drawn on beard) was very convincingly drunk, though in the middle of the play transformed into more of a Mafioso than a bumbling drunken uncle. While none of the Italian accents got in the way, the actor playing Sir Andrew Aguecheek had the most impressive and natural English accent. Count Orsino was very funny from the off, bringing in the music at the beginning of the play with dramatic flourishes. Olivia also was very convincingly bored of Orsino’s advances and the tomfoolery of her Uncle Toby.
The production made use of modern music to enliven some scenes – such as LMFAO’s “I’m sexy and I know it” which played as Malvolio entered in his yellow stockings and smiling. The use of music was always funny, though sometimes it played for too long and the pace of the performance slowed. With all the smaller roles ably filled, the only things which let this play down were technical. The lighting was generally a full wash, but on occasion only one section of the stage would be lit, and actors would sometimes stumble into the darkness. An awkward moment at the end of the play which risked the cast not having the chance to take their bows and the audience’s applause was caused by lack of familiarity with the powerpoint which had provided the backdrops and music for the performance. It was also a shame that more time had not been taken to provide a small programme, or cast list for the play, which would certainly have been appreciated (and helped to credit the actors in this review).
Overall, this was an engaging, entertaining, and genuinely funny performance of this classic play. The cast and crew, and especially the teachers who led the production should all be incredibly proud of what they have achieved. As Maria’s letter to Malvolio says: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Well, this cast truly achieved something great.