Student theatre generally doesn’t play host to many outright comedies; Sixth Side Theatre’s decision to present Twelfth Night as a ridiculously silly production played for laughs is a brave one, but has paid off. Directors Becky Latcham and Esalan Gates have delivered a clever, farcical show which constantly has its tongue in cheek and isn’t afraid to laugh at itself.
The production exists in a 1920s-inspired world, with jazz music playing as the audience enter, and a stage decked with fairy lights. The costumes are well-thought out, with bow ties in abundance and every cast member’s face literally dusted with gold to add an opulent, performative feel which fits the production well. Occasionally the sound feels washed out or redundant, but the use of lighting is creative; bright shades of pink, blue and yellow flood the stage at different moments. Technical Director Anna Bodrenkova ought to be commended for the sheer number of tech cues she handled. At times, some of the lighting changes felt a little redundant, but generally added to the colourful and upbeat tone of the show.
Among the cast, Oscar Nicholson and Daniel Vilela are outstanding. Nicholson’s Malvolio is uptight and perfectly characterised, commanding the stage with aplomb and comic timing – his turn as the cross-gartered victim of a prank is hilarious and delivered with confidence. Vilelia is a neat foil as Feste, the fool who knows more than any other character; he acts as a straight man, offering a wry comment and a raised eyebrow when the action becomes ridiculous, allowing us to forgive any moments that could have been too dramatic. The scene when Feste is teasing Malvolio as he is locked away in a dark room is a pleasure to watch.
The rapport between Adela Hernandez-Derbyshire and George Sutton as Toby and Andrew is sustained and assured, both engaging with the ridiculousness of their drunken characters and making full use of the jokes in their dialogue. Alana Mann as Viola makes for a schoolboyish but charming Cesario, bouncing well off Harrison Newsham’s affected, self-important Orsino. It is hard to believe that the characters really confused Mann for her ‘twin’, Rob Caesar as Sebastian, but this is absolutely part of the fun of it, and makes the moment of realisation at the end more hilarious than it had any right to be.
Indeed, this is a production that deliberately does not take itself too seriously, allowing the actors freedom to be ridiculous and, above all, to keep us laughing. As Feste comments, “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” The ‘officers’ enter wearing fake moustaches; characters hide behind pot plants and suddenly cannot be seen; they drunkenly sing and dance the Charleston. Latcham and Gates have created a world where the ridiculous is commonplace, and the cast invite us to indulge in the hilarity of it, and have just as much fun as they are.
Twelfth Night is a witty, self-assured show which is not afraid to laugh at itself (especially if it can make the audience laugh in the process). There are moments where the energy lacks a little in what is generally a quick-fire performance, but it remains a lot of fun, and the perfect break from the mid-term blues.
By Imogen Usherwood
Image: taken from the SST’s Facebook page