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Twelfth Night (tour - Guildford, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Directed by Edward Hall, the all-male cast of Propeller Theatre create a punchy and brutal production of Twelfth Night that explores what happens when you fall in love with the wrong person.

Michael Pavelka’s set is atmospherically eerie and has echoes of a past decadence, dusted with cobwebs. With oversized, movable wardrobes, a broken chandelier and mirrors lining the walls, it plays on the themes of disguise and hints at a ship’s ballroom sunk beneath the sea.

The music, created by the company, haunts the stage, while the group harmonies have the ability to invoke both a raucous drinking hall and the sound of a broken heart.

As an ensemble the company sparks and fizzes with each other as though it's playing with electricity. Prowling the stage in the shadows, a constant presence creates the sinister feeling of being watched, while masks allow leads to become chorus, and vice versa.

The pairings of lovers create a dynamic tension with Joseph Chance’s Viola momentarily forgetting herself when Orsino (Christopher Heyward) breaks down under the weight of his unrequited love while Ben Allen’s Olivia toys with Orsino’s affection with a cat-like femininity. Raw and consuming masculine love envelopes the play such as Antonio (Finn Hanlon)'s gut wrenching desperation when Sebastian appears to abandon him.

This production does not shy away from the violence and misery of unrequited love. While the comic scenes are undoubtedly funny, Hall plays with the themes of hidden feelings and internal passions by juxtaposing delicacy and cruelty. Vince Leigh’s sterling performance as Sir Toby Belch brings this to the forefront; on the one hand he's a rowdy drunk – demanding, swigging from the bottle; on the other, a hollow and lonely man.

Propeller has once again served up a delicious cocktail of Shakespeare with a twist. Bitter but playful, this production utterly beautiful to watch. And as for the cross-gartering? Zounds! Thou art in for a surprise!


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