Sunday, 20 August 2017

Barbican Theatre 'Bard In The Yard' Twelfth Night @ Royal William Yard REVIEW | LittleEllieMae

I love what the Barbican Theatre is all about- it promotes high quality, accessible work while supporting and developing local talent. This is something that is vital for the South West as we are somewhat disconnected from the rest of the country and industry so making sure that arts and culture can thrive within this hub is very special. 

Over the past three years, Barbican Theatre have created the popular 'Bard In The Yard' series which sees professional Shakespeare productions staged in Plymouth's most beautiful and historical seaside setting, the Royal William Yard. In 2015 they staged 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and last year showed the immensely popular 'Romeo and Juliet'. This year's production is Shakespeare's chaotic comedy 'Twelfth Night'. Jon Nash directs this production, with Ryan Wilce assisting, Kate Rogers as Musical Director, Jules Laville as choreographer and produced by Mark Laville. 

They explain that Twelfth Night is about "parting, identity, cross- dressing and the search for true love.". It follows a disorderly tale of identical twins who get lost from each other after a disastrous shipwreck. To survive "she" pretends to be a "he" and "he" ends up caught in a mad tangle of love. Alongside this, there are hilariously menacing plots made, resulting in all but some bright yellow stockings...!

The cast is made up of eight local professional actors, all of whom take on multiple roles in the show. For some, this could come across as confusing but the use of costume changes as well as the slick performances from each actor portrayed every personality differently and therefore made it seamless for the audience to follow. 

Comedy was the main element of the show; the use of wit and physical comedy had the whole audience giggling. Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's most humorous plays and this cast delivered it with quick timing, making it thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

Designer, Hannah McArthur, kept things very minimalistic. The set is designed to cater for two venues as generally the outdoor space in the Residence One Garden is utilised but the performance is moved to the indoor venue, the Factory Cooperage, in case of wet weather (which it was during Press Night!). There is actually little of a set, with just a simple blank canvas backdrop and use of minimal props including some chairs, a record player and a tree which also reverts into a jail cell door! Though the simplicity of the design really lends itself to the rest of the production, ensuring the focus is on the actors who then utilise their physicality more than anything. Its well thought out and allows the stunning historical surroundings of the Royal William Yard venue to play a part in the production well too. 

I liked the idea of the use of song and dance, especially as the production boasted a 1920s 'flapper' theme, but the songs with vocals seemed somewhat crowbarred into story, making it seem a bit clumsy and awkward at times. Though I did really enjoy the use of 1920s music and Charleston dance routine at the final bows.

The cast of local actors are a credit to the production. They are full of enthusiasm for the piece and this comes across on stage. The show bursts with energy and is sure to make any audience member laugh, using the most classic words of Shakespeare himself.

The production has had a fantastic run (despite the sporadic Plymouth weather!) and I am looking forward to what the Barbican Theatre and 'Bard In The Yard' has planned next!

Check out their website here to find out more about the Barbican Theatre's work and future productions:

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited along to this performance by Barbican Theatre but all thoughts and opinions are my own.


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