Making a Night of it

Sophie Szcesniak’s violin solos framed the action in Bottle Tree Theatre’s production of Shakspeare’s Twelfth Night
Sophie Szcesniak’s violin solos framed the action in Bottle Tree Theatre’s production of Shakspeare’s Twelfth Night

Bottle Tree Production’s rendition of Twelfth Night takes place on a nautically themed set—appropriate given the play’s opening catastrophe is a shipwreck that separates twins, leaving each presuming the other dead. In true Shakespearean style, comedy ensues.

The ship is also an apt metaphor for the piece as a whole; it doesn’t run itself aground or fall apart in the water, but the performance is not always smooth sailing.

Many cast members had experienced difficulties with the Shakespearean dialogue, fumbling lines, hurriedly stringing sentences together and awkwardly breaking up the rhythm set by the pentameter. Ultimately, it feels like this production of Twelfth Night could have used a thirteenth night of rehearsal.

But the cast is not entirely to blame. The Wellington St. Theatre’s acoustics claim another victim of this production, as actors’ voices were alternately drowned out and echoed off of the high-arched ceilings.

With its plot—full of drunkards, love triangles, sword fights and mistaken identities—Twelfth Night has a little something for everyone as love is lost, found, bestowed upon the wrong people, and in a turn of deus ex machina, a happy matrimonial end ensues.

Wisely, director Matt Davis chose a simple but beautiful set and a neat white wash to light it. The colourful costumes and wigs, combined with the often frenzied pace of the action could have been overpowering if combined with an outlandish set or too many transitions. As it is, the bizarre comedy of errors plays out cleanly, not overwhelmed by its aesthetic.

The standout performances and audience favourites are clearly the outrageous duo of Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Clayton Garrett) and Sir Toby Belch (Steven Spencer), the bawdy, drunken guests of the Countess Olivia (Amie Bello). Deliciously debauched, these two play off each other effortlessly, enjoying the camp of it all just as much as the audience.

Somewhat in need of the aforementioned camp, although enjoyable nonetheless, is Terry Wade’s portrayal of the steward Malvolio. Though hilariously deluded and certainly pompous, his performance is too subtle in its execution and plays down the over-the-top self-adoration needed to keep him a comic figure. Despite the undeniably humourous figure he presents when cross-gartered and smiling wildly, there’s more room for empathy than is typical when the character receives his comeuppance.

Most disappointing of all is the character of Feste. Shakespeare’s fools are often the standout characters of his works, but the role appears to be lost on Craig Deacon. He speaks both quietly and quickly and without much discernable emotion or enthusiasm, denying the audience some of the best lines of the play.

Ana Donefer-Hickie, and Tom Sinclair, both high school students, play twins Viola and Sebastian, the source of the gender-bending drama. Donefer-Hickie’s youthful cheekiness and curly red hair are mirrored in her fraternal counterpart—one aspect more successfully than the other. Though both characters are charmingly unaware of the hearts and hormones they’re setting ablaze, Sinclair’s garish red wig is more than slightly reminiscent of Ronald McDonald, a characteristic which makes it difficult to take tender moments of reunion or shocked realizations seriously.

The supporting characters—special mentions hould be made of Kristin Rodgerson’s newly-female and lisping Fabian, and Krista Garrett’s mischievous, coquettish Mary—and the classic script end up carrying the piece, but the two together are strong enough to keep the play from sinking.

Framed nicely by violin solos courtesy of Sophie Szcesniak, the tangled knot created by the actors is untied in just over two and a half hours. Despite some minor set-backs and ill-advised casting choices, the night proved that—in the world of Shakespearean comedy—all’s well that ends we

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