Review: Show of promise fails on credibility

theatre
“Twelfth Night (or What You Will)”
By William Shakespeare, directed by Ed Wightman
At Theatre 3 until April 12.
Reviewed by Simone Penkethman

CANBERRA Rep’s “Twelfth Night” had all the ingredients for a quality production.

Ed Wightman directed last year’s “The Book of Everything”, which was a standout in Rep’s 2013 season. The large and experienced cast are known for solid and believable performances in previous productions.

Yet this show lacked cohesion, had an uneven pace, some confusing design elements and frequent moments of a distracting lack of credibility.

Quentin Mitchell’s set design was stylish and sparse. However the costume design, which was supposed to reflect a 1930s aesthetic, was actually a mismatched array of day and nightwear that spanned several centuries.

The opening scene saw Duke Orsino, surrounded by his minions, being unconvincingly massaged by a servant dressed like a mid-20th century secretary. It radiated more awkwardness than opulence.

A decision to replace Shakespeare’s original songs with old pop songs could have worked if jolly and comedic numbers were chosen. Instead, the sweet-voiced Tim Sekuless as Feste the clown, repeatedly slowed the pace with numbers that were more torch-song than jovial ditty. And, surely, he could have found an old-style guitar without distracting electric pickups?

There were some strong individual performances. Elenor Garran’s Viola provided an integral evenness and credibility. Jerry Hearn’s Malvolio also made a genuine connection with the audience.

But comedy requires a sense of deep, human truth to be truly effective and that was generally lacking from this production.

 

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