“If music be the food of love, play on,” begins Twelfth Night. However, this is food of a different and unconventional flavour. Swivel Theatre aims to produce classic theatre with a twist and this production is no exception; set in 1920s Tangier, Morocco, its production of Twelfth Night provides a feast for the eyes and ears of the audience. From the off we are treated to live music and traditional belly dancing, creating a fantastic atmosphere. When coupled with the exotic dress and colourful set, you can practically feel the searing Moroccan heat.
The North African surroundings allowed for a multi-national cast, which worked incredibly well despite Shakespeare being considered quintessentially English. English men have acquired a reputation as being somewhat lacking in passion, so this cast made Malvolio’s and Orsino’s almost terrifyingly obsessive love for Olivia that much more believable – and Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s attempted wooing of her even more laughable.
I must applaud those of the cast for whom English is a second language – Anais Alvarado and Christian Fontaine – who did admirably with a style of language that most native English-speakers find difficult to perform.
Carolina Main gave a beautiful performance in the role of Viola and her talent particularly shone in the more serious scenes; beginning with a convincing grief at the loss of her brother and ending with a truly touching reunion with him.
Tibu Fortes ranted and raved marvellously as the odious Malvolio but the true highlight of his performance was naturally the incident of the yellow cross-gartered stockings. I especially enjoyed the addition of some yellow daffodils to his rear end!
Leo Marcus Wan as Feste gave some great renditions of Shakespearean songs; I particularly liked the number set to the tune of ‘Minnie the Moocher’ in accordance with the 1920s setting. Wan played a childlike and lively Feste; it was clear he was having a lot of fun with the role, particularly when breaking the fourth wall and waving happily to the audience from a platform above the stage.
My highest praises however, must go to the performances of Isabelle Farah, Tony Wadham and Matthew Gibbs as the troublesome trio Maria, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. They worked well both individually and as a team, and their comic timing was spot-on, particularly when they observe Malvolio reading the forged letter from Olivia. Farah was charming and mischievous, Wadham proved a splendid and comical drunk and Gibbs left me laughing even after his scenes were over. His Sir Andrew was delightfully camp and silly, “That’s me, I’ll warrant you!” he exclaims happily upon Malvolio’s mention of a “foolish knight.” He portrayed a wonderful innocence and desperation to be liked, and we certainly do like him.
The costumes were striking and opulent, especially those worn by the ladies. The belly dancer’s jewels sparkled enticingly, Maria’s deep blue robes were very fine and Olivia’s clingy black lace mourning dress made it obvious why she had so many suitors.
All in all it was a brilliant evening. Having studied the play it was a pleasure to finally see it brought to life and in such an innovative way. I must thank Swivel Theatre for making my first experience of Fringe theatre a joyous and inspiring one.
Twelfth Night is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 18 March. For more information and tickets please see the Cockpit Theatre website.