WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Young Vic RUNTIME: 105 minutes (no interval)
WHEN?: 5/10, press night 8/10, runs to 17/11/18
Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah arrives at the Young Vic with a modern-day musical re-imagining of Twelfth Night that he co-directed and was a hit this summer in New York’s Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park program.
- Read on for reasons including why this production is like a breath of fresh theatrical air
The songs were written by Shaina Taub and have a soulful feel which fits with the setting of Illyria as pre-Notting Hill Carnival and a celebration of Caribbean culture.
It includes a community chorus of 30 people, some of whom we chat with as they give out jerk chicken to the audience ahead of the show opening, which establishes a sense of place as well as building excitement.
Twelfth Night is the story of twins Viola and Sebastian, who are – spoiler alert – separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as Cesario in a stand-out performance by Gabrielle Brooks, pictured right above) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man.
It’s not 1 of our favourite Shakespeare plays because of the treatment of Malvolio, who is ridiculed and tricked, but here Gerard Carey plays him as pantomime villain, even negotiating the stage memorably on a hoverboard at 1 point.
The songs are earworms, especially Tell Her, If You Were My Beloved and Is This Not Love?, and we’re especially pleased to have found them on iTunes.
The enthusiasm of the cast and community chorus is infectious and this is an especially successful production that never feels too long, despite lacking an interval and which we can see transferring into the West End with ease.
It’s a start of special promise for Kwei-Armah at this venue and, despite not being staged outdoors, it brings a real breath of fresh theatrical air to the Young Vic.
We can’t wait to discover what Kwei-Armah has up his sleeve for this venue next.