Director Dennis Garnhum chose to set this love story at a luxury seaside spa and hotel: what better place to massage the mayhem that surrounds each character, into blissful harmony.
A young woman named Viola survives a shipwreck and disguises herself as a boy in order to get work. She falls for her employer Orsino, who is in love with Olivia, the proprietress of the hotel, and Olivia in turn falls in love with Viola (as a boy). They chase each others' tail, so to speak, in a whirlpool of tension that bubbles with the interjection of Olivia's second suitor Aguecheek, and yet a third suitor, the comically misguided Malvolio. The mayhem churns to a frothy mess of confusion and misunderstanding with the discovery of the survival of Viola's twin brother Sebastian, until the pressure builds, the floodgates are burst, and the pool of deception drained exposing the truth.
This is a cast of professionals who all seem quite at ease in their roles though some of them are new to Bard on the Beach. Whether they have lines or not, they are always doing something and inside their characters deeply enough to resonate that to the audience regardless of whether they are speaking.
The blocking and pacing of the play is smooth and rhythmical, and nothing appears overdone.
The design is minimalist, as expected, but clever in its cross over of scenes and the costumes are stylish and beautiful.
Twelfth Night is an amusing story typical of Shakespeare's comedies and a must see for the entire family.
As is the norm with Bard on the Beach, the cast must shift from comedy to tragedy and this year Twelfth Night is paired up with Hamlet. This is a difficult but rewarding play that allows the actors and director to step up and show what they're worth. Jonathon Young won our hearts as the bumbling, wise fool Feste in Twelfth Night and yet was able to disappear into the lead role of Hamlet.
Many of the audience members catch multiple shows and once an actor stands out as someone with a particular talent for comedy, it's often difficult to imagine that person in another more serious role. Young tackles Hamlet with a ferocity that makes believers of us all.
Part of this phenomenon is director Kim Collier's decision to lace the character of Hamlet with a touch of comedic madness rather than a straight up dramatic madness.
Collier shines as one of the most intuitive and innovative forces to put her stamp on Bard. With over five hours of original play to choose from it is no easy task to pull together something that will flow with as much ease and grace as with what she has managed to construct. The use of contemporary multimedia is refreshing and clever. ipads and iphones, televisions and digital video all transition this famous story into the 21st century and provide a translation of sorts from Elizabethan to contemporary.
The lighting and sound design are showcased nicely with the minimalist but highly effective scene design, and the costumes are creative and beautiful.
There isn't one weak link in the cast, regardless of the size of their role. There is a sense of unity and comfort among the cast members that is most evident in their ability to support each other when things take a turn for the worst. In many ways this version of this play i quite risky in its set up, in that if one thing goes wrong, many things could go wrong. The play relies heavily on sound and lighting, there is the use of digital media, the actors use scrims (in this case, little pouches filled with fake blood) and the actors are fitted with ear mics, an addition which has proved challenging at the best of times.
As an example of a challenge that was met with extreme professionalism, in the midst of the climactic scene at the end of Act 1, Young's ear-piece falls out. Instead of ignoring it or simply replacing it, he utilizes the mishap to accentuate the tension when he, without breaking stride, grabs the microphone and speaks his lines directly into it, “by and by.” The audience erupts with applause.
Everyone is clearly there for each other, collecting forgotten props and jumpstarting each other after a difficult line. The cast and crew deserved their standing ovation this evening, and are sure to receive more as the summer progresses.
Bard on the Beach is a must see this year. Bring your family. It is never too soon. Check out Bard on the Beach for tickets.