Luckily, the weather uncharacteristically behaved itself for Friday’s performance of Twelfth Night – the latest production at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. What a relief. This ‘re-imagining’ of the Shakespeare play is predominantly aimed at young children; blatant from the outset as the audience were asked to provide ‘wind’ in the opening sequence before being requested to copy a choreographed dance routine (phenomenally easy but too much effort for me). Initially I feared that this production would be too juvenile and silly to appreciate as a grown-up, especially as it is marketed as being for ages six and over. Thankfully, though, this is a show everyone can enjoy and, whilst being very silly, it is a show all will be tickled by. Set Designer Ben Stones has done a marvellous job at keeping things simple but joyfully quirky, with a ‘love’ meter that pings every time the inevitable happens and brilliantly creative moments that include a very large blank of wood draped with wedding finery for Olivia and Sebastian’s nuptials, which is balanced across much of the stage and used as both a platform to walk on and a hiding spot for some hilarious quick-changes. Props supervisor Gillian Robertson brings some nostalgic charm at various intervals with a number of water pistols (super-soakers?!) that are shot off into the audience. I particularly enjoyed having to dodge spouts of water for about five minutes. Director Max Webster did an excellent job here in maintaining my full attention throughout. I think probably it was the small but vastly welcome doses of dry and easy humour that more than likely went over younger children’s heads but full frontal into the grown ups’. Webster has created a constantly systematic, efficient way to view the play and the sheer energy the cast exudes, and the easiness with which they convey the words, really works in ensuring you don’t miss much. Modern references such as Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s singing Frozen‘s ‘Let it Go’ as he flounced on stage may seem a bit passé, what with the mass obsession surrounding it but still it worked, and I think cleverly so. Sarah Ridgeway’s Viola and Nick Malinowski’s Malvolio and Orsino are undoubtedly the stand-outs in a show streaming with talent. Ridgeway’s take on ‘being a man’ is overtly clichéd (spread your legs and grab your crotch…) but could this character be done any other way? I don’t think so. She is a confidently natural comedian and the type of performer I adore seeing on stage. Favourite moments include her slapping Vera Chok’s Maria’s bum, almost as an after-thought and shrill screams as a dog barks at her. Malinowski is hilarious and his performances as both characters are outstanding – especially Malvolio’s sequence with the yellow stockings. He, too, is an effortless performer. Riann Steele’s immediate impression was that of a stereotypical children’s presenter but as Olivia and one of Orsino’s maids she, like the rest of the cast, was pretty darn funny. This is an effortlessly cool summer treat with an excellent team of people, both on and off-stage. Twelfth Night is playing at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 12 July. For more information and tickets, see the Open Air Theatre website.


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