Preview: “Twelfth Night” for two nights only

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Rehearsing “Twelfth Night” / Photo: Sasha Mann

Viola loves Orsino, Orsino loves Olivia, and Olivia loves Viola in disguise. Chaos (and comedy) ensues.

The twists and turns of this unconventional love story are soon to be brought to life on the Byre Stage in a new production of Twelfth Night.

The play follows a pair of twins – Viola and Sebastian – who are separated after they shipwreck on the shores of Illyria. Viola assumes a man’s identity and goes into the service of Duke Orsino, who hopes to woo the wealthy countess Olivia. Amidst the confusion of mistaken identities, love blossoms into a disastrous web of love triangles.

Rehearsing “Twelfth Night” / Photo: Sasha Mann
Rehearsing “Twelfth Night” / Photo: Sasha Mann

The tale is famously retold in the 2006 film ‘She’s The Man’, starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. Now, this iconic story has fallen into the hands of the Shakespeare in St. Andrews team, lead by director Olli Gilford. The performance is part of the On the Rocks festival.

This production stars Sebastian Allum as Duke Orsino, with the twins Viola and Sebastian portrayed by Eleanor Burke and Grace Thorner respectively. We reached out to Olli Gilford to gain a little more insight into the upcoming production.

When asked about his decision to direct Twelfth Night, Gilford explained:

“I think that there’s a wealth of really funny actors out there who often don’t get the opportunities to show what they can do in a space like The Byre. I think this a great show for those people, and my wonderful cast have only proved me right about that.”

With a strong comedic cast, Twelfth Night promises a lot of laughs – but that’s not all. Gilford tells us that “there will be drama, jokes, music, and lovely Shakespearean poetry a plenty”. Whether you’re the Bard’s biggest fan or a mere novice with sonnets, the show promises an entertaining evening for all.

Rehearsing “Twelfth Night” / Photo: Sasha Mann

However, this is not Shakespeare as you may know it. This rendition of Twelfth Night has been designed to make the text accessible and the subjects relevant to a modern audience. This update promises subversion with a hint of debauchery. Gilford admits: “Our approach to the text has been completely without any reverence”.

The material certainly lends itself to this interpretation. Shakespeare is famous for blurring the boundaries of gender, and Twelfth Night is a shining example. The show is rife with innuendo and delights in the discomfort of crude anatomical humor. This production aims to push the envelope even further, with the inclusion of a four-piece rock band and a hard lean into the genitalia jokes.

“We’ve made it part of our jobs to make sure the audience follows what’s going on, even if they don’t understand every word,” Gilford explains, “Our focus is very much on telling the story, and having a good laugh while we do so.”

The enthusiasm and unique vision behind this production make Twelfth Night an unmissable theatrical event. The show sails into the Byre Theatre on April 12th and 13th, with tickets available on the Byre website for £7. The production team will also be running an exhibition in the Byre foyer on the history of performances of Shakespeare in St Andrews.

Finally, when asked what audiences can expect, Gilford told us: “We’ve had a good time making this show and we think you’ll have a good time watching it”.

To experience the riotous romance for yourself, catch Twelfth Night next week at the Byre.

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