Twelfth Night at Bard on the Beach

Rachel Cairns as Viola/Cesario. Photo courtesy of Bard on the Beach.

Rachel Cairns as Viola/Cesario. Photo: David Cooper, courtesy of Bard on the Beach.

Shakespeare! Now with sideboob and sexy man-butts!

Bard on the Beach opened its 24th season this week, with this year’s productions of Twelfth Night and Hamlet on the main stage, and Measure for Measure and Elizabeth Rex (by Canadian novelist and playwright Timothy Findley).

I was lucky enough to win tickets to the opening night performance of Twelfth Night, one of the few Shakespeare comedies that I haven’t read. But since so many of Shakespeare comedies share similar elements (a shipwreck, mistaken identities, girls-dressed-as-boys-who-like-boys-who-like-girls), it was relatively easy to follow along.

The highlights

Jonathon Young as Feste – the fool in employ of Olivia’s household – stole the show for me. Although a relatively minor role with few lines, Young’s facial expressions and body language brilliance added a new level to the standard role of fool. The actor is also starring as Hamlet in Bard on the Beach’s other main stage production, and I will definitely be going back to see him.

In another minor role that stood out, Naomi Wright brought an intelligent sassiness to the servant Maria, making it possible to like her even as she conspired to first embarrass and then drive one of her colleagues mad.

Did I mention the sideboob and butts? Some clever staging turned what might have been a slow expository scene into some cheeky bathhouse fun. The scene could have easily crossed the line into tawdry nudity-for-the-sake-of-nudity-and-a-cheap-laugh, but it actually served to humorously highlight Viola-as-Cesario’s discomfort at being a woman in this male-dominated world.

The lowlights

I wasn’t fond of Rachel Cairn’s interpretation of Viola. I like my Shakespeare heroine’s a bit spunkier – in the vein of Beatrice and Kate – and her Viola was at times too timid. Granted, this is her first season doing Bard on the Beach, so perhaps with time the language and performance will be less stilted.

Oy, the musical interludes. Not having read the original play, I’m not sure how many of the breaking-into-song moments were drawn from the source, but they were too drawn out and for the most part didn’t add anything to the story. I’m also very curious if the Hey Nonny Nonny song (also known as Sigh No More, part of Much Ado About Nothing) was part of the original or added in by the director; anyone know?

And finally, there wasn’t enough of Duke Orsino, or rather, not enough time for him to develop any chemistry with either of his supposed love interests.

Twelfth Night runs Tuesdays through Saturdays, until September 14. Go get your tickets and enjoy!


About Erin

Bookworm, word nerd, grammar geek. Small town girl, living in a lonely world. Running a race-per-month in 2013.
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