Thursday, September 10, 2020

'Twelfth Night' by William Shakespeare, adapted by Stephen Purcell

 10 September 2020

It was wonderful, last Sunday afternoon, to be back at The Place in Bedford (or, more accurately, the car park of The Place) for an open air production of ‘Twelfth Night’ by The Pantaloons. As we arrived the actors were on hand, in face masks and bearing 2 metre long oars from a rowing boat which they used to make sure we positioned our folding chairs sufficiently far apart from our neighbours – so we literally couldn’t have touched other audience members with a bargepole. The show started with the audience being asked to give a cheer and a wave – but when one of the actors suggested we should give another wave, his colleagues quickly jumped in to say “No! No-one wants a second wave!”. We have seen the Pantaloons many times before, most recently their hilarious production of 'The Odyssey' at The Place (reviewed here in April 2019). They are always charmingly silly and very inventive but this production of ‘Twelfth Night’, adapted and directed by Stephen Purcell,  showed them at their most innovative. Delivering Shakespeare’s play with only four actors would be a challenge at the best of times but in this case the actors were two real-life couples and the action was intricately choreographed to avoid any of the multiple characters being played by each actor to come within 2m of someone from the other of the two households. It was very slickly done, didn’t detract from the story and only served to add to the comedy. I have seen ‘Twelfth Night’ more times than any other Shakespeare play (I’ve previously reviewed ‘Twelfth Night’ here six times over the past 15 years). It’s a play that always seems to work and it was great to revisit the familiarity of this classic text, albeit in the austere surroundings of a car park, and to enjoy live theatre again after so many months without it.

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