Twelfth Night, Bristol Old Vic

IF you want an evening of inspired enjoyment, head for Bristol Old Vic before 17th November to see Wils Wilson’s extraordinary take on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The co-production with Edin­burgh Lyceum is another brave move from BOV artistic director Tom Morris. Wilson is best known for her site-specific pieces and her collaborative approach, but happily for audience and company, this production coalesces in a way you can only dream of. It is truly gender and colour blind, and if that strikes fears of worthy and politically correct box-ticking in your heart, fear not.

The play is called Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and the idea here is to set it in a run down mansion where a group of young people, bored at the end of 11 days of revels (probably following a successful production of Hair), decide to perform the book someone finds – Twelfth Night.

It really doesn’t matter who plays what. All the costumes and musical instruments are on hand to bring it to life. If you’ve ever played this game, you’ll know what fun it can be, and if you haven’t now’s the time to find out.

Designer Ana Inés Jabares-Pita’s interests are as deeply grounded in music as they are in stage sets, and many of cast are musician actors. They are also virtuosic performers, several known for their own solo projects and memorable contributions to other companies.

The result is a triumphant concoction of comedy, pathos, romance,  sex, jealousy and colour, all seen through a psychedelic oil wheel of delights.

Christopher Green, perhaps best known as Tina C and Ida Barr,  is a uniquely marvellous Malvolio, matched in invention by Dylan Read’s elastic Feste. Throw in Guy Hughes as Sir Andrew,  and he has composed a whole ballad at the grand piano to amplify one line.

Colette Dalal Tchantcho is a passionately angry Orsino and Jade Ogugua a bemused Viola. Olivia might be in mourning, but her grief has quadrupled her desires in Lisa Dwyer Hogg’s fashionable interpretation. Composer Meilyr Jones leads the entire cast in experiments with organ pipes and many other instruments. Dawn Sievewright and Joanna Holden roar and plot and lust ….

It is incredibly funny at the same time as staying true to the original and illuminating the text.

It’s the Shakespeare play I know best, and the one I found more in than I could have imagined.  I’ll be going back, and keeping my fingers tightly crossed that this sensational production does not end here, but finds a London theatre, and fast.   If the FTR gave stars, I’d give it six out of five


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