Kwame Kwei Armah and Oskar Eustis’ Twelfth Night is slick, easy to follow, genuine and (of all qualities to aspire most to in a piece of new work), powerful. It is packed with musical genius and original context. What better way to create a stunning musical than to borrow the cracking plot and language of Shakespeare? The lilting love songs and jazzy exposition of Twelfth Night are captivating, creating the framework for a visually stunning, harmonically gorgeous and incredibly well crafted adaptation.
Lizzi Gee’s choreography is gripping and logical, which gives the production an edge on a lot of unoriginal movement-based performances currently filling London stages. In particular, her simple yet detailed constellations within ‘disguise’ are a treat. Robert Jones’ set – a colourful London suburb – brings a smile to your face as you imagine what a squalor-free ‘musical-theatre-land’ London would look like. Despite having no scene changes, the story flows and drives us with it through every moment. It is very rare that I find myself in the first ten minutes of a musical wishing that those instances could happen again and again in a continuous flux.
Melissa Allan’s Feste is somewhat scatty. She performs with an interesting take on the silly fool, her creative decisions effective as she narrates the love story with an incredibly talented voice. Gabrielle Brooks’ disguised Viola is a masterclass on acting through song. Hardly leaving the stage for 90 minutes, Brooks tackles countless sonnets and rhyming couplets while making each one compelling. Rupert Young’s cracking performance is endearing if a little monotonous, completely topped by Gerrard Carey’s Malvolio with his comic eyebrows and satirical wit to charm the most serious of London commuters.
Natalie Drew’s Olivia isn’t as heightened as I had anticipated, but is instead built respectively of events. Drew’s ability to manipulate speech into song is easy to get lost in and makes her thoughts land with precision. Jonathan Livingstone’s Antonio is uniquely endearing for an often ‘hulky’ stereotype of a character. Instead, Antonio is genuinely head over heels for Sebastian and Livingstone captures all of this with only the cuteness of his smile and the intention behind his eyes. Shaina Taub’s music is creative and has the perfect balance between repeating gestures and new offers. If, at the very least you want to see a show and leave feeling joyous, Twelfth Night is a must see!
Twelfth Night is playing at the Young Vic until 17th November. For more information and tickets, see here.