Review: Twelfth Night, Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

Thomas Howells visits Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival at Sophia Gardens for a new interpretation of a Shakespeare classic!

Everyman Theatre’s open air presentation of Twelfth Night offers an interesting take on the Shakespeare play. Setting it in the 1960s with heavy psychedelic imagery as well as many references to the time, the presentation is both vivid and colourful!

The choice to base this version of Twelfth Night in the 1960s was honestly not what I was expecting but has made me more open to classics retold in a way than how they were originally intended. What really stands out is how the inclusion of 1960s music appears to dovetail into Shakespeare’s dialogue, especially towards the end of the presentation, which I found really entertaining. There were also several jokes and pop-culture references to songs such as The Beatles’ ‘I Am the Walrus’ which I certainly loved.

The minimalistic two-level set, focusing on a Chaise Longue, deck chairs, curtains and greenery-styled rugs that doubled on occasion for comic effect as camouflage was incredibly effective.

A common issue in many Shakespeare plays for modern audiences is keeping the content interesting. Here, the director, David Mercatali, his cast and creatives don’t have any issues as they build on the Shakespearean dialogue with a vibrant, colourful, and entertaining performance. The humour of Twelfth Night is quickfire, breaking the typical Shakespearean style either by speaking in modern English or using downright screaming.

The cast keep the play both fun and captivating, driving the comedy along where necessary. Kate Willetts gives a commanding performance as Illyrian Countess, Olivia who despite refusing audiences with any man, balances a sense of playfulness with her potential suitors, one of whom she mistakenly believes is a young boy, Cesario (in truth a pseudonym for Alex Ogden-Davis’ Viola, played to great effect).

Cressida Ford brings flamboyance to the role of the minstrel, Feste as she belts out, ‘I’m A Believer’ while Jess Courtney’s Maria grabs our attention as she hatches a devious plan along with the boisterous Toby Belch (Sarah Bawler), the mischievous servant, Fabian (Leila Kandola) and wealthy underachiever, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Peter Harding-Roberts) to ridicule Ceris Jones’ lovable, but regimental fool, Malvolio.

Adding some balance to the order is Joshua Ogle’s lovestruck Orsino who sends Cesario (Viola) to plead his love to Olivia and Thomas Davison’s Sebastian (Viola’s missing brother) who attempts to unravel some of the ensuing madness in the second act.

The company are excellent in bringing the story together and all members of the cast raise a smile over the productions two and a half hour run which make the experience all the more enjoyable.

Twelfth Night can be confusing at times which only makes later scenes more complicated. However, I felt I did understand what was going on at the end and the conclusion was wrapped up clearly, neatly and in a very fun way.

I think that this sort of portrayal of The Bard’s work is the way forward to open doors for new audiences to access his plays. Perfectly suited to an open-air environment, this version of Twelfth Night embraces energy and humour while striking a balance between contemporary and classic elements. There’s no better way to enjoy Shakespeare in the open air!

Twelfth Night continues with performances from 8th – 9th & 12th – 16th July at 8pm with matinee presentations on 9th & 16th July at 3pm.

Published by Thomas Howells

The doctor said I should be in hospital for all the blood I was losing, but instead I went to drama practice

2 thoughts on “Review: Twelfth Night, Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

  1. Thank you glad you enjoyed our show , I extremely honoured to be in the ensemble of such an amazing group of people

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