Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

Twelfth Night
by  William Shakespeare   directed by Clive Young

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, December 2012

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A Review of Twelfth Night
by Chris Avery

"Our true intent is all for your delight.” OK, wrong play, but this sentiment was obviously in the minds of Clive Young and his excellent cast and crew in their presentation of Twelfth Night.

Beginning with a lutenist serenading us as we entered the theatre, and concluding with the final line of Feste’s song, “and we’ll strive to please you every day”, there was so much to enjoy in this lovely production.

 I saw the play twice during the week, and on first watching I was initially a little disappointed as it seemed that the director was keeping his cast on a tight rein. However, I was prepared to believe that he was pacing the piece carefully so that the second half could unleash the hilarious layer upon layer of confusion and misunderstanding which can only be resolved when the estranged twins Viola and Sebastian are eventually reunited – and so it proved.

By the Saturday night, though, the production had really hit its stride and the play sparkled right from the beginning. The director had decided to stage it very simply, and this allowed the very well chosen pieces of furniture to set the scene for us. Costumes also played a big part in creating visual delight as the contrasting colours of the ladies’ gowns glowed against the plain background – while Sir Andrew Aguecheek was a vision of loveliness in rose pink!

Well thought out groupings of actors gave us a series of attractive stage pictures, with stage diagonals being very well used in this context. This gave an impression of depth to the set, while careful positioning of the actors meant that scenes of dialogue could be presented without their having to act in profile. And the sight of Sir Toby Belch on the table conducting drunken carousings until interrupted by a bawling Maria telling them to keep the noise down will stay with me for a very long time!

Lighting was sympathetic during the interior scenes, in contrast to short scenes in the city or by the sea, which were played in starker light at the front of the stage. Several entrances were made through the auditorium, which gave a sense of movement and activity, in contrast to the more reflective scenes between Viola and Olivia and Viola and Orsino.

The entire company was so well cast that there was not a single wrong note among them. Obviously the principals stand out, but the minor characters, without exception, all gave excellent performances. Orsino’s (Martin Prest) air of studied languor brought laughs immediately, as he reclined at exactly the right angle in the ducal chair. This sense of boredom with the doings of lesser mortals was matched by Olivia (Angelique Fronicke) when initially rejecting Viola (Laura Clark) as Cesario’s wooing on behalf of Orsino, but as her attraction to her young suitor increased, so did her energy, and her incomprehension over her apparent rejection by her new bridegroom was a perfect picture. Richard Sockett (Sir Toby) seems to have cornered the market this year in portly, drunken Shakespearian rascals. He made an excellent pairing with Alan Stewart as Sir Andrew, who brought a whole new level of characterisation to his role – his line “I was adored once” made me chuckle but also led me to wonder about his back story. And indeed he can “caper as well as any man in Illyria “! His energy and commitment, together with his wonderful facial expressions, made him a joy to watch.

Fran Burgoyne as Maria, lively, witty, irrepressible, full of invention, fully matched him in this respect. Martin Woodruff as Malvolio was excellent as the supercilious and pompous senior servant with ideas above his station. He was credibly willing to fall for Maria’s trickery and believe that Olivia was secretly in love with him, to the helpless merriment of Toby, Andrew and Fabian, while his arch, insinuating attempt to court her, resplendent in bright scarlet cross garters complete with romantic red roses, was very well realised. Finally, very well done to Andrew Shepherd as Feste/Sir Topaz, who moved between his roles with a dry wit which fully found the comedy in them. And as, if I’m correctly informed, an erstwhile non-singer, he sang his songs very tunefully.

Many congratulations to everyone involved with this production, which, I’m told, was a joy and a privilege to take part in.