Matthew Kelly as Sir Toby Belch
Matthew Kelly as Sir Toby Belch
© Stephen Vaughan

Twins Viola and Sebastian are separated when their ship sinks and only Viola is washed up on shore. Undeterred, she is determined to survive on her own and sets off to explore her new surroundings. As expected with Shakespeare, nothing is ever straightforward, and so begins the mayhem and madness, with mistaken identities and mismatched lovers, to much giggling of the audience.

This opening production to the Everyman's new season (and new building) is quick paced, witty and completely charming. It makes you laugh, think and is very engaging. There are so many good characters, played by exceptional people, who take you by the hand and lead you through the story from beginning to end.

Although a new theatre, the personality and character of the original Everyman is still very much apparent. You can feel it as soon as you walk into the spacious auditorium, as well as seeing it in the original bricks used to rebuild it.

Continuity is the key to this successful opening, as many of the actors in this production started off their careers at the Everyman back in the 60s and 70s (Matthew Kelly, Nicholas Woodeson). There are many local and much loved faces (Paul Duckworth, Adam Keast, Pauline Daniels). New talent is very much nurtured and encouraged, so it was very heart-warming to see young performers in amongst those more experienced (Natalie Dew, Jodie McNee).

Gemma Bodinetz as artistic director has directed many productions over the years, but not one as brave and bold as this. Knowing that this whole production will be under the spotlight, it needs to be right to draw the crowds that once flocked to the Everyman of old.

Bodinetz has been right on all things: the stunning cast, the sparse set, the incredible and very unsuspecting beginning. Every decision has been made to showcase not only the actors talents, but what the Everyman can do, and is now, more than ever capable of being the best theatre outside of London.

This Twelfth Night is a must see.

Twelfth Night is at the Liverpool Everyman until 5 April.