Twelfth Night is generally considered to be Shakespeare’s most perfect comedy, being an incomparable blend of exquisite poetry, boisterous laughter and bittersweet emotion; all this and music too. We set our production in the fashionable seaside resort of Illyria in an England benefiting from the sustained prosperity of the Roaring Twenties. It was an era of social, artistic and cultural dynamism with jazz music blossoming – the so-called Golden Age.
Romantic love, and the pain it can cause, are a major focus of the play. Shakespeare’s other romantic comedies – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It - have stories where the young succeed in romance by defeating the wishes of their elders. Illyria, however, is conspicuously short of inconvenient seniors – it is wholly free of repressive parents. The only person of that generation is Sir Toby Belch and he is far more unruly and permissive than his juniors.
The self-regarding central triangle is Orsino, Olivia and Viola who are seen as prisoners of desire. But this can also be said of Sir Toby and Maria, of Sir Andrew and his unrequited love for Olivia and even of Malvolio in his self-love and unresolved passion for his mistress.
No long and languorous soliloquies in this play – it was a racey, pacey, romcom packed with naughty humour, mistaken identity, gender switching, deceit, confusion, rollicks, frolics and beautiful poetry, beribboned and bejewelled in plentiful music from start to finish.