GJ Productions Presents Twelfth Night

An evening of intrigue, love triangles and bawdy humour

By Owen James

It is a true joy to watch Shakespeare performed in Australian accents in an outdoor amphitheatre by lakeside. As the sun slowly sets and the stage lights take over, words and music fill the night (as do the unavoidable mosquitos), and one cannot help but feel magic in the air.

Photograph: Matthew Howat

I will admit that Twelfth Night is easily my favourite Shakespearian comedy and I was pleased this production drew plenty of giggles from the crowd. When the hesitant yet excitable Viola (Chloe Towan) disguises herself as a man, confusion and hilarity ensue for both the princely Duke Orsino (Vincent Kos) and the commanding Olivia (Grace Maddern), as well as their staff and family.

Director Jack Wilkinson has crafted a production that maintains all the traditional Shakespearian elements we expect: intrigue, love triangles, bawdy humour and cross-dressing, while also including contemporary jokes and accents to help a modern audience relate to the material. This works well where included, but is scattered inconsistently throughout. Further inclusion of contemporary references may have helped provide clarity for audience members unfamiliar with the text.

It is amongst the more heightened caricatures of Sir Toby Belch (Joel Norman-Hade) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jacob Mills) that the biggest and best laughs are found. Playing alongside these tricksters are Maria (Madeline Pratt), Fabian (Laura Majzoub), Malvolio (Timothy Ian McMullin) and the audacious Feste (Sean Sully), who as a team clearly enjoy their time performing together, and their enthusiasm reverberates with both cast and audience.

Comrades Sebastian (Jack Hawkins) and Antonio (Jake Matricardi) form the rest of this cast of eleven, contributing effectively to the pace and energy that everyone maintained with full gusto for this two and a half hour performance. However, for such a text-heavy show there were moments where some actors did not seem to understand the full intention behind their dialogue, nor craft believable or memorable characters. The outstanding highlight was undoubtedly actor, Jacob Mills as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, whose delivery and improvisation were exquisite.

Lighting and sound is simple and effective, and masks (Tessa Wallis) and costumes are noticeably colourful and assist in our understanding of this convoluted plot (as does a character map found in the program).

GJ Productions should be applauded for producing family-friendly Shakespeare in Australian accents, and it is wonderful to see a space like the Fairfield Amphitheatre being used on a warm, Melbourne night. So, bring your chairs and picnic baskets along to Twelfth Night, running until January 28th.

Dates: 19 – 28 January
Venue: Fairfield Amphitheatre
Times: 8:00pm
Prices: $9 – $30
Bookings: https://www.gjproductions.net/home
Image by: Matthew Howat