Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre: Twelfth Night, Re-imagined – Performance Review

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Iain Johnstone leads the Twelfth Night cast as Feste in a musical rendition (Credit: Johan Persson)

by Rachel Creaser
Star rating

*****
Same stage and sunshine, but a new adventure each year at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s ‘Re-imagined’.

Around this time last year, I attended The Winter’s Tale: re-imagined for everyone aged six and over. I recall (helped by re-reading my five-star review of the show) having a great time.

With the ethos the same each year, it could be feared that the ‘Re-imagined’ shows get samey or stagnant. This is definitely not at all the case with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre: the energy and techniques used to deliver the desired outcome for ‘Re-imagined’ feel completely fresh. There’s an ease in what ‘Re-imagined’ does to connect with young audiences; the relationship between Shakespeare and young people isn’t forced – it’s genuine.

I felt that Twelfth Night had a slight more sophistication about it than A Winter’s Tale, which is still had the age-appropriate introductions to characters and plot, they felt more part of the world of the play – character’s introduced themselves in character, but in the third person. The production is colourful, energetic and fun without being brash.

One of the most enjoyable elements was the live music. Feste (played by Iain Johnstone) playing the accordion added a atmospheric ‘folksy’ feel to the piece. It also helped the audience dance participation feel more at home within the play. One of the ways in which this felt like a real ensemble piece was how the actors swapped instruments – once even during mid-song.

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Sarah Ridgeway and Guy Lewis as parted twins Viola and Sebastian (Credit: Johan Persson)

Performances from the whole cast were very enjoyable and engaging: Sarah Ridgeway’s ‘boy’ impersonation was funny, but not overdone or distracting; Riann Steele had great confidence and presence as Olivia; and Wayne Cater’s drunken Sir Toby Belch and Iain Johnstone’s Feste and pirate Antonio added darker notes to what was largely a fun and upbeat character make-up.

The set evoked the feel of a folk-esque funfair. The ‘love-o-metre’, which rang each time a character fell in love, was a fun set piece but also helpful at marking key moments in the narrative.

This production acts as a great introduction to Shakespeare for young people: it has mistaken identity, love, madness, humour and a man in yellow stockings.

Even if the rain had poured down, I can’t imagine that I would have enjoyed the show any less.

Twelfth Night re-imagined for everyone aged six and over runs until 12 July. There is an accompanying education resource pack available on the website, containing rehearsal images and post-show activity ideas: https://openairtheatre.com/production/twelfth-night-reimagined

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