Twelfth Night, or What You Will, is one of Shakespeare's classic comedies of mistaken identity. After being separated from her twin brother in a tragic sea storm, Viola is washed up on the shores of Illyria where she disguises herself as a man and works for Duke Orsino who she falls in love with. The Duke is infatuated with Olivia who meets Viola in disguise and falls in love with her - various hilarious hijinks ensue!

The overall feeling of this production is that it is decidedly fine. We are presented with an entertaining story that, for the most part, makes sense. Beyond this, we get very little by way of interesting take or even heartfelt story-telling. 

Indeed, the most captivating plot point is that of Sebastian's relationship with Antonio, often forgotten or removed from scripts entirely. Certainly, some edits would have been appreciated, but this inclusion was welcome and gave layers to an otherwise one-note play. 

It does not feel as though there is any considered vision for this play and, in particular, its characters. No characterisation feels especially well thought-out and definitely not congruous with one another. 
Ryan Dawson Laight's costumes are absolutely gorgeous, especially Olivia's many melodramatic outfits, and Sam Kenyon's compositions are a lovely touch to a play with music at its heart. 

There are some stand-out performances among a generally talented cast: Anita Reynolds is great fun as Maria; Richard Cant's Malvolio commands the audience with great skill during his monologues; and Michael Matus as Toby Belch is an utter treat. Anna Francolini's Olivia is an acquired taste, but ultimately brilliant and a fabulous performance - it is a shame her character seems so ill fitting within this production.  However, it must be said that the most impressive performance comes from Nicholas Karimi as Antonio/Captain - in his all-too-brief appearances on stage, he brings emotional complexity, humour and undeniable star quality. 
Twelfth Night, or What You Will, runs at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until 8th June.


Review: Penny Lane   Photos: Richard Lakos