top of page

Twelfth Night | Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's most beloved and greatest plays, and this particularly production does it proud. Maintaining the wit, comedic chaos, and original plot and Shakespearean language, this production also adds a more contemporary lens with the inclusion of queer relationships, drag, sexual themes and gender switches. This particular adaptation, also called Twelfth Night or What You Will is directed by Owen Horsley and is mounted at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. 

The story follows twins Viola and Sebastian who are separated at sea, each believing the other has drowned. Viola disguises herself as Cesario and becomes a page for the Duke Orsino and becomes entangled in a love triangle with the Duke and Countess Olivia, (who has mistaken her as a boy), resulting in hilarious complications. A parallel plot revolves around Olivia's Uncle Sir Toby, his friend Sir Andrew, her fool Fest and staff members Maria, Fabian, Curio and Valentine, and Olivia's steward Malvolio, as the two sides clash and enact revenge upon each other in another hilarious series of pranks and tricks. A final subplot is that of the updated Sebastian and Antonio, who find one another after the shipwreck and fall in love. The three plots overlap in the second act, resulting in even more chaos, evoking loud laughter from the audience. 

Whilst the plot is hefty, and characters aplenty, it's relatively easy to follow and through clear and distinctive staging and costumes, the audience quickly understand and engage with plot. The production doesn't spend time building the world wherein the characters reside, focusing more on the characters and their relationships.  

The cast are marvellous together and are a great team, playing off one another well. A few stand outs are Evelyn Miller (Viola/Cesario) whose brilliant acting, innocent portrayal and emotional reactions ensure that the character stands out and audiences to root for her. Matthew Spencer (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) is comedic and committed to his role, and extremely talented at physical comedy. Michael Matus (Sir Toby Belch) is a star, commanding the stage with their performance. Andro Cowperthwaite and Nicholas Karimi (Sebastian and Antonio) bring a breath of fresh air into the production with their passionate performances. Anna Francolini (Olivia) brings a strong performance and stunning vocals to her character.

This production brings in moments of musicality that are in the original playtext, and also a couple of originals numbers, allowing the cast to showcase their talent. With composition from Sam Kenyon and musical direction by Jon Trenchard (who also plays Fabian). The band are present on stage and also perform as Olivia's staff, creating a fun interaction with the band and the actors. 

The staging is minimal, with "OLIVIA" written backwards in lights above the stage (as though it were a concert venue), and several tables and chairs on stage. Designed by Basia Bińkowska, the lack of personalisation in the set allows for it to be used as several locations. With several doors and windows placed throughout, scene changes are swift. The sound (Max Pappenheim) is done well, managing to be well heard and clear despite being an open air theatre. The lighting design is gorgeous (Aideen Malone), with the stage clearly lit despite the changing sky. The golden rows of lights and string light bulbs gave the set a contemporary glow. Pink and blue lights streamed in from the doors and this added to the wonderfully classic nature of Shakespeare play's theatricality. The actors, despite a more modern interpretation of the themes and characters, feel as richly written as ever. A big part of this is the ease with which the dialogues were spoken (Kate Godfrey), the costumes (Ryan Dawson Laight) and the wigs and make up (Carole Hancock). 

Twelfth Night is a stunning production and provides the perfect way to spend a Midsummer Night in London. Classy, bold and entertaining, it's a definite watch. Twelfth Night runs at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until 8th June - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Richard Lakos


bottom of page