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

Matilda the Musical sweeps Olivier Awards with record win

The Olivier Awards saw RSC production, Matilda the Musical, come away with a record seven wins, including prizes for best new musical, best director and best set and sound design.

The four girls who share the lead role in Matilda (Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Sophia Kiely and Eleanor Worthington-Cox) won the coveted award for best actress in a musical. The youngest of the trio, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, aged ten, said: ‘It’s pretty cool – and scary – but also awesome. I just hope the next person to follow in my footsteps feels as honoured as I do.’ This was not the first instance of a prize being awarded in this capacity – the teenage actors who alternated in the role of Billy Elliot, were awarded with a joint honour of an Olivier award for best actor in a musical in 2006.

Teaching Drama cover star Bertie Carvel was awarded for his portrayal of headmistress Miss Trunchbull, with a prize for best actor in a musical. Carvel is set to step down from the role this July, with his successor yet to be announced.

While the RSC made Olivier award winning history, it was a mixed bag for The National Theatre. John Hodge’s Collaborators was awarded the prize for best new play. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller were named best actor for their roles in Frankenstein. However, runaway hit One Man, Two Guvnors, for which James Corden was nominated as best actor, came away with nothing.

Open Air Theatre had reason to celebrate, as their production, Crazy for You, won best musical revival. Director, Timothy Sheader, who appeared in Teaching Drama summer 1, has now completed his hat-trick of musical revival awards, winning last year for Into the Woods and Hello Dolly! the year before that. Sheader said: ‘It’s quite unbelievable but amazing. It feels slightly greedy! I don’t think we can even look at the nominations list next year; we’ve had our turn that’s it.’

The ceremony, in its 36th year, took place at The Royal Opera House. The awards were screened on the BBC’s red button service and online. Events also took place in Covent Garden and New York to celebrate the awards.

www.olivierawards.com/2012-awards