Twelfth Night by Open Bar Theatre

“.....the entire cast should be praised for crafting a truly wonderful performance"

Shakespeare in the Garden's rendition of Twelfth Night was an absolute delight, set in the charming beer garden of the Plough in Ealing. The stage was set with a wooden block mound with steps and cleverly concealed compartments, which ingeniously unveiled plants, notices, and secret hiding spots. There was a resting area and props station upstage, allowing actors to seamlessly transition when not in the stage space.

The performance commenced with a lively ukulele ensemble by the cast of four, setting the tone for a show that skilfully blended humour and artistry. Throughout the play, these musical interludes added a refreshing dash of comic relief. A highlight that everyone enjoyed was the character ingeniously portrayed by the actors themselves, along with the artistic guidance of Puppetry Director Chris Dobson, using a mop with J cloths for arms. This imaginative touch showcased the production's inventive spirit.

With a small cast of just four talented individuals – Ben Galpin, Shadia King, Caroline O’Mahoney, and Hannah Pryal – the play demonstrated remarkable versatility. Their performances were nothing short of exceptional, requiring them to seamlessly shift between multiple roles, costume changes, and embody distinct voices. The costumes were modern and pedestrian in nature, but delivered a charming surprise when Viola borrowed garments from the audience to create her disguise.

Audience engagement was a cornerstone of the performance. From echoing voices to unexpected appearances of police officers and vicars, the show gleefully broke the fourth wall, inviting spectators into the merriment. Even the occasional mishaps were embraced, self-narrated with a humorous touch. The characters were all impeccably portrayed, capturing the essence of this accessible and enjoyable Shakespearean style with interactive elements. Despite more than a little rain, the production remained undeterred, demonstrating the troupe's dedication to their craft. A gentle reminder for future attendees: a warm layer for the second half might be wise.

While the play's intricate web of characters occasionally challenged those unfamiliar with the story, the adept acting carried the narrative smoothly.

Fuller's pubs' involvement added a touch to the experience. Ordering from the bar was accompanied by the option of ordering food from the table, though a glitch in the system led to a drinks-only menu. At the interval when at the bar to order cheesy chips, we were told of the chef's limitations due to high demand they could not grate cheese – a small inconvenience in an otherwise delightful evening.

In conclusion, the Director Nicky Diss and the entire cast should be praised for crafting a truly wonderful performance. Their ability to flawlessly execute such an intricate production, especially in an outdoor setting, speaks volumes about their dedication and talent. Shakespeare in the Garden's rendition of Twelfth Night is a testament to the magic that can be achieved through creative storytelling and engaging the audience in a shared experience.

This show was reviewed on the 8th August 2023.  Tickets and locations for future performances can be found here:

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides


Photo credit: Nascot Creative

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