Twelfth Night – Old Fruit Jar Productions at Royal Court Studio, Liverpool
Old Fruit Jar Productions have well and truly ripened with their upcoming production of Twelfth Night at Liverpool’s Royal Court Studio this August, and it was a delight to catch up with director Alex Carr and cast members to discover what they have in store.
Shakespeare is often perceived as off-putting, mainly because of how poorly it is taught in schools, and something that people look forward to escaping from but in the right hands, one can delight at the continued relevance of work from over four hundred years ago and its ironic examination of the human character: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…
OFJP have embraced the challenge and chosen to reset the play, one of Shakespeare’s more famous comedies, to the 1980’s where, in a fun and energetic twist, Viola (Florence King) is stranded on an Ibiza-like island and having lost contact with her brother Sebastian (Jordan Barkley), disguises herself as a young man, Cesario. Lovesick Orsino (Anthony Roberts) has convinced himself he’s in love with rival bar owner Olivia (Christina Rose) and enlists the help of ‘Cesario’ to act as an intermediary: what could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, in a comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia’s pompous PA, Malvolio (Josh Ennis), believe that Olivia has fallen for him, including her uncle, Toby Belch (Luke Seddon), another suitor, Andrew (Jamie Peacock), a holiday rep, Maria (Rachel McGrath), Fabian (Angus Ewing) and Curio (Luke Morgan). With DJ Feste (Amy O’Toole) apparently the only voice of reason in the house, it all becomes a little blurry when Sebastian pitches up with sidekick Antonio (Iospeh Myrddin) in tow.
Carr notes they were keen to retain the original language – as Luhrmann did with Romeo+Juliet – and allow the visual to carry the audience through the scenes, taking full advantage of the comedic nature of the piece which in itself plays to the obvious strengths and abilities of the cast: Ennis recently scooped a Best Actor award in a role for which he had no lines, but where his comedic masterclass of a performance shone through.
The recent resurgence in 1980’s themes provides a wealth of recognisable material to draw upon from iconography through to music which will further help the audience access and connect with the material; ultimately this is an all-out romantic comedy with some serious moments that will cause us to question where it is right to draw the line.
Gender is often seen as the issue of our day, yet few realise that twenty percent of Shakespeare’s work involves cross-dressing characters, often designed to afford female characters more freedom in what was then a restrictive society, using their often-belied wit and intelligence to win the day; in Twelfth Night cross-dressing is central to the complication and the resolution of the plot, and it is all the funnier for it.
Liverpool’s Royal Court is renowned for its main theatre Scouse productions, but their Studio provides a welcome stage for local companies to try out more diverse work with the potential to step up to the main stage: Twelfth Night of a festival on Spike Island? Don’t rule it out…
Old Fruit Jar Productions’ Twelfth Night performs at Liverpool’s Royal Court Studio 16th – 20th August 2022 at 19:30 with a further matinee performance on 20th at 13:30. Tickets are priced at £10 and are available at https://liverpoolsroyalcourt.com/whats-on/twelfth-night/