Now in its seventh year at ‘The Actors Church’, Iris Theatre has struck gold with Vik Sivalingam’s Twelfth Night. Using the gardens, making the church itself look divine and including the audience in a good-natured fashion, this show is promenade performance at its best. Crammed with comedy, the play’s contrivances, of separated twins and cross-dressed courtship, are funnier than ever.
Sivalingam’s aim is to entertain – such clarity imbues the cast with purpose. Pepter Lunkuse is a believable Viola – it’s easy to predict she’s an actress with a bright future. Nick Howard-Brown’s Feste and Julian Moore-Cook’s Orsino are commanding presences. Tony Bell and Robert Maskell, both experienced performers, play a dour Malvolio and carousing Sir Toby with vigour. Act two, scene five, with the fantasising Malvolio duped by Anne-Marie Piazza’s delicious Maria, is the best I’ve seen performed.
A wonderful sense of intimacy is created in the flower-filled gardens. Entreated to follow the actors to different scenes becomes a playful treat – it’s a great game to go wooing Olivia with Viola. And Olivia’s pursuit, when she falls for the twin dressed as a man, is full of complicit cheekiness, embodied by Olivia Onyehara. A duel between characters is conducted with an umbrella and a mop. Even the shrubbery is used as a prop.
The production’s small cast impresses, performing Harry Blake’s music, which subtly infuses the show, as well as by taking on multiple roles. None more so than Henry Wyrley-Birch, whose Sebastian is heroic, while his Andrew Aguecheek elevates a sometimes tiresome role into a central figure – seldom has so much comedy come from a cape. The brief moment when Sebastian and Aguecheek meet is something to look forward to – it’s handled with an endearing humour that’s indicative of how light, lithe and easy to love this show is.
Until 24 July 2015
Photo by Hannah Barton