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Iris Theatre’s Twelfth Night at St Paul’s Church Covent Garden

Twelfth Night: Malvolio (Tony Bell), Feste (Nick Howard – Brown), Sir Toby (Robert Maskell) Photo Hannah Barton

Set in the beautiful grounds of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, this promenade production of Twelfth Night by Iris Theatre is pure joy. Moving between four locations in the gardens and finishing in the church itself, the play is performed by just eight actors, with most of them playing two characters, bringing Shakespeare’s text to life.

Obviously being an open air show in the centre of London there are sound issues; planes above, Covent Garden street theatre in the distance, traffic, etc, but the cast to do well to project in a location that is not very forgiving. Unfortunately some of the wonderful music (composed by Harry Blake) that they sing and play is drowned out, but what is heard is a lovely accompaniment to the play.

There is very minimal set, mainly bits of boat, ships netting and fairy lights wrapped around trees (which is beautiful as it starts to get darker), but the production doesn’t need anything more. The costumes are also very basic, dressing Viola and Sebastian in the same clothes, but again, it doesn’t need anything else. The setting of the production is what makes this production unique and special.

We are led through the different locations, sitting on park benches, walls, planks of wood and church pews while the play happens around us. We are introduced to well performed classic and recognisable characters; Tony Bell’s slightly manic and awkward Malvolio in his yellow stockings and the Falstaff-like character of Robert Maskell’s Sir Toby Belch. Henry Wyrley-Birch’s Sir Andrew was also a highlight, particularly when fighting Viola with an umbrella. However, it felt as though some of the comedy in Olivia’s scenes was lost. The play is, after all, a comedy, and it is not just Sir Toby and his group that should provide that comedy.

4 stars

Review by Elliott Wallis

Iris Theatre returns for a 7th year of its celebrated summer season in the gardens of  St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden with William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Acclaimed Iris Theatre returns for a seventh year of its celebrated summer season in the gardens of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden with a promemade version of William Shakespeare’s TwelfthNight.

Twelfth Night, directed by Vik Sivalingam, will open the 2015 season, playing from Wednesday 24 June – Friday 24 July.

In the fantastical Kingdom of Illyria, the peace of a grieving Countess and a heartsick Duke is disturbed by a pair of shipwrecked lovers, a lazy drunk, a vain pedant, a cowardly fool and a  cunning maid. Tricks and subterfuge lead to unforeseen consequences; but then ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’, in this, the most loved of Shakespeare’s comic plays.

Iris Theatre’s next classical play follows a long line of successful summer productions including Off West Award-nominated Richard III in 2014 and Julius Caesar in 2013.

Tony Bell (MALVOLIO / ANTONIO), Nick Howard-Brown (FESTE), Pepter Lunkuse (VIOLA), Robert Maskell (SIR TOBY), Julian Moore-Cook (ORSINO), Olivia Onyehara (OLIVIA), Anne-Marie Piazza (MARIA), Henry Wyrley-Birch (SEBASTIAN / AGUECHEEK),

Director Vik Sivalingam is currently Resident Director on Made in Dagenham- the Musical at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End. Vik has worked in theatres all over the UK including the Almeida, the Old Vic, the Royal Court, Tricycle Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, Sheffield Crucible, the New Wolsey Theatre and Headlong Theatre. From 2008- 2011, he was Resident Assistant Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Twelfth Night will be followed by a new version of Pinocchio from Wednesday 29 July – Saturday August 29.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare


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