Twelfth Night

Date 7th July 2016
Society The DODS
Venue The Lister Hall, Dursley
Type of Production Play with songs
Director Craig Hewlett
Musical Director -
Choreographer -


Author: Dee Way

Thank you for inviting me to review your recent production of Shakespeare’s “12th Night”, from an adaptation for American Colleges. I admit to having a great fondness for this play, with all its twists and turns. For you to learn and produce the play in just 6 weeks was incredible – and shows what a talented and dedicated group you are.

The script was adapted and shortened from the original, but retained all the essence of the full-length play. The language was very well used in highlighting certain parts, such as Olivia’s proposal to Sebastian – ad her shock at his acceptance!  Indeed, it was hard to see what had been cut, as all the nuances of the story were still present. To see the play performed in modern dress was new to me – and it worked really well! In fact, it made the play even more relevant to today’s audience, with Viola dressing as a man for safety, and the showing up of Malvolio as a buffoon, by making him a laughing stock. It was good to hear that the rhythm of the lines was used so well.

The set was very good, with the action spreading to the hall floor for much of the time, while the narrow stage area behind was used as the seashore, to show the survivors of the shipwreck. The use of the two side areas of floor – with low rostra – as the two households worked very well. The variation in furnishing made it quite clear which area was which, with the Count Orsino’s apartment being quite minimal and Countess Olivia’s being more graceful, with lamp, drinks and bookcase. The use of the ‘downstage’ area as a street – with lamppost and bench - also worked very well, as did the prison grill in the stage front, where Malvolio was incarcerated and taunted by Feste (the Clown).

The direction of the play was excellent. The use of space, the time given between sections and the guitar music all combined to make the action highly believable. There were pauses between scenes at times, but that only served as audience breathing spaces – a time to consider what had had been played out on stage. The contrast between the fire of Olivia and the quiet confidence of Viola was lovely. This play was very well cast, with Sir Toby Belch being rotund, Sir Andrew Aguecheek being small, and Feste being slightly crazy, while Viola and Sebastian could have been siblings and Malvolio looked suitably officious. The use of the tree branches and acted birdsong (and a cow!) while the trio were hiding from Malvolio being duped were really nice touches, adding a lot of humour. 

The costumes, being more modern, were very good, too. I particularly liked the life jackets used in the shipwreck scenes – a good touch or reality. Long red socks for Sir Andrew, the two striped blazers, Feste in an army combat jacket, Malvolio in morning dress with yellow stockings over his trousers, the lovely black dress and pearls for Olivia and the sailor’s uniform and captain’s hat for Antonio and the sea captain all added reality to the production.

The lighting was very well done, moving the focus of action from one area to another with mostly excellent timing. The sound of the sea during the shipwreck scenes was most effective – with the seagulls setting the scene very well.

The use of live guitar music by Craig Hewlett was inspired! It worked brilliantly, giving just enough support to singers and creating a feeling of the Mediterranean very well.  The addition of the bodhram by Feste sounded very authentically medieval.

There was very good teamwork in this production and the smaller roles were portrayed just as well as the larger roles, creating a magical evening of drama. If lines were lost, time was taken to recall them – and that added a lot to the flow of the production. Altogether there was a feeling of freshness and energy about the production that is quite rare, in my experience. The humour drawn from the text was delicious. If this is your first Shakespeare play as a group, I certainly hope that is far from your last.