The scene for this incarnation of Twelfth Night (a joint venture by the superpowers of the Edinburgh Lyceum and Bristol Old Vic), looks like an imagined interpretation of a house party at George Harrison’s in the seventies. There’s a sense of hedonism, in a gentle hippy way, as the characters drink, dance, sing and play (for music is the food of love don’t ya know?). There’s a distinctly odd feel to proceedings aided by the psychedelic-meets-medieval tunes played on a range of both ubiquitous and obscure instruments. The costumes too are deliciously strange, incorporating glam rock, woodstock, power suits and a whole lot of sequins. The stunning and creative set design makes use of two fireman’s poles connecting the mansion set’s upper level with the main stage, a ladder connecting the Royal Box and a hole in the set wall from which various actors emerge. It’s multifaceted, layered and a visual feast – even without anyone uttering a word.
The direction is every bit as exciting too – the blocking is beautifully choreographed, with much clowning and physicality in the performances. The actors leap on and off a grand piano and climb like lithe monkeys, many wearing massive platform and heeled boots too. The cast is mostly strong, but features some particularly remarkable performances. Christopher Green’s Malvolio provides one of the maddest scenes of all, as he emerges clad in a Rocky Horror Show style getup and belts out a funky serenade to Olivia (Lisa Dwyer Hogg). Guy Hughes as Andrew Aguecheek is pure comedy gold – hilarious and intentionally ridiculous. Dylan Read is nuanced, creative and versatile as Feste, while Aly Macrae’s almost wordless presentation of the priest who weds Sebastian and Olivia is brief, but brilliant and memorable.
The ending is euphoric, with the happy cast singing Hey Ho, the Wind and the Rain while emanating an effervescent and infectious joy that sends us home with lighter hearts. This play was originally penned by the Bard in 1601 as a festive comedy, but 417 years later, the wit and wisdom lives on. Its theme of gender fluidity is as pertinent as ever and here the use of several women playing major male characters (as well as a woman playing a woman pretending to be a male of course) and the costume design echoes it.
The message is: love sees past gender and dress – and it’s a message that’s very much at the forefront of progressive thinking in 2018.
Twelfth Night runs at The Lyceum, Edinburgh, until October 6th 2018.
Photography by Mihaela Bodlovi