David Ward attends a carnival and finds a meaty comedy
Pembroke New Cellars - 7.30pm Tues 3rd-Sat 7th November
Twelfth Night, or, ‘What You Will', has found itself in the spotlight of late, what with the RSC's current adaptation at The Courtyard, and its being named as this year's annual Marlowe Society Shakespeare production. Before we are treated to the grandeur of the play at Cambridge's Arts Theatre, the Pembroke Players present ‘Twelfth Night' in the all the more intimate surroundings of the New Cellars. What it may lack in size, it more than makes up for in warmth, fervour, and laughs.
At the centre of this production lies music, and the ukulele-vocal stylings of Jeff Carpenter. As well as enthusing his Feste with a great deal of energy, his adaptation of the music is perfectly situated to the moods and whims of both plot and production.
Indeed, the play's two most inspired moments arise from the introduction of music, and both utilise it for quite different purposes.
The comic trio of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste, enjoy a terrific bond throughout the production, and it is no where better exemplified than in their drunken rendition of ‘Hold the Peace'. Alongside this trio, Oliver Marsh's Malvolio and Anne Gilchrist's Maria are perfectly suited to their roles, with Marsh in particular exuding pathetic charm as the hapless steward.
Further on in the production, we hear Feste's ‘Come Away', whilst Orsino (a suitably poised Jason Forbes) and Viola inadvertently fall asleep on the couch together. A moment of sublime control, which is all the more startling for its being the only affecting moment of romance in the entire production. Though the comedy shines brightly throughout, there is no romantic substance to counterbalance the humour.
Despite this drawback, however, this production has much to offer. The performances on the whole are very assured, with most actors finding themselves perfectly suited to their roles, and the production has a number of top-draw comic moments.
Yet, it lacks a little inspiration at times (besides the directors' excellent use music) and if you don't know the plot of ‘Twelfth Night', then you should certainly become familiar with it before watching this production.
For its many positives, though, this is a Shakespeare that should be seen. Its cast and crew have obviously worked very hard to create something that is a highly enjoyable theatrical experience.
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