Friday, 14 December 2012

Shakespeare in the Park: Twelfth Night

Shakespeare Shipwrecked Season 2013
Presented by Sport for Jove Theatre, The Hills Shire Council & The National Trust
Twelfth Night: Directed by Damien Ryan
Bella Vista Farm: Saturday, December 8, 2012

Most people reading this will never have heard of Bella Vista Farm, let alone been there. Nestled in the expansive Hills District of North West Sydney, Bella Vista Farm was established in the late 1700s with the property being purchased by John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth in 1801. John Macarthur is often refereed to as the pioneer of the wool industry in Australia, with his wife doing most of the work as he was shipped back to England to face legal charges. At the time of its creation you could stand on the front veranda and see all the way down to Parramatta, bunya pines lining the way. These pines are still there today. A resent restoration has seen the farm return to its former glory and it was here, as the sun set behind the farm house, that the scene was set for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.  

Picnic at hand, seated on low chairs, the crowd of about fifty waited with baited breath. The entire cast started in song and we were escorted to the old barn and seated around an elevated, wooden platform that was surrounded by blue tarp. While some of the cast 'sunbaked' on the platform, the rest sat on the edges and moved the tarp, symbolising water. Roy Orbison was pumped from the speakers, beehives were a plenty and suddenly its Shakespeare set in the swinging 60's. A man dives off the platform and disappears into a slit in the tarp. As he emerges he shakes his head, flicking water at the audience - he's just taken a quick dip. This entire opening scene was incredibly clever and perfectly utlised the varying aspects of the old farm. It is in this setting that the storm hits and Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are separated. Out of sheer grief, Viola vows to adopt the guise of a man and insinuate herself into Orsino, Duke of Illyria's, court.

It was a real pleasure to see Tyran Parke perform again as Feste, the fool. I had seen him last at his solo cabaret show, A Light in the Dark (you can read the review here), and this performance cemented him for me as truly a diverse and skilled performer. As well as incredibly funny. Parke graced us with a song as we made the move back to our seats.    

The utilisation of the property and the house was brilliant, with the sets simple yet effective. Anthony Gooley was arrogant yet likable as the love-lorn Duke of Illyria Orsino, who in vain attempts to win the heart of the spoilt and petulant Countess Olivia, played convincingly by Megan Drury. Exceptional performances included Mark Lee as Malvolio, steward to Olivia, who's vanity sees him easily fooled into believing his lady is in fact in love with him, a deception with hilarious consequences. Also of note, James Lugton who plays Sir Toby Belch, uncle to Olivia and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheeck played by Michael Pigott. Both characters spend the majority of the play drunk and find themselves in all sorts of mischief which is infinitely entertaining. Comic timing is really everything here and the cast pull it off with flying colours.

Sport for Jove's rendition of Twelfth Night was exceptional and highly entertaining. The perfectly chosen cast were brilliant and you really couldn't have asked for a better setting for one of Shakespeare's most loved plays. From here the company will head to Leura in the Blue Mountains to continue the Shakespeare Festival

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