Twelfth Night: Live! – Maltings Theatre

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Adam Nichols

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Suffering from a little cabin fever? Well, how about escaping aboard the SS Illyria with a G&T in hand and scandal unfolding directly from your lounge? This is precisely what The Maltings Theatre is promising with their abridged, musically interactive version of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy Twelfth Night – Live! Following a successful run, the team don their best cocktail dresses, headpieces and tap shoes to stage this classical narrative in the Roaring Twenties.

Embracing the medium, where the terms ‘Zoom’ and ‘Live Theatre’ collide – one expects chaos to ensue. Rather than allow it to wash over them, the entire team at Maltings Theatre channel this energy into their performances, aesthetic, and instead of ignoring the platform, work the logistics into the narrative; allowing us to capture multiple angles for dialogue, incorporate editing and animated effects with surprisingly unique outcomes. Inventive and playful, this live incarnation of the play removes aspects but maintains a core of the original narrative.

Sebastian may be absent, but this enables us to get to know our fellow guests – particularly Fabian and Viola, carried well by Will Pattle and Flora Squires. Pattle, in particular, takes the troubling task of introducing the premise of the show, the balance of audience video and audio and switching between camera views. This format comes with drawbacks, as occasional scenes will feature a cameo from Davina in Sunderland as her husband Brian fills his fourth glass, but, if anything, it adds an element of chaotic merriment. The characterisation is there, with Anna Franklin and Emma Watson bringing an intense presence to more extensive roles like Lady Toby Belch or Olivia. As a musical, vocals range from spectacular, courtesy of Hannah Baker and Faith Turner, to acceptable.

As for the musical element, the inclusive ripples of Jukebox moments bring additional character-elements but hinder on occasion. The live instrumental accompaniment conjures feelings of those concert halls and theatres, from what feels so long ago, enhancing the quality of the production. Adam Nichols’ artistic direction, no doubt relishing the ability to shift the production to the digital platform, rouses the cast together as they take on the role of stagehands, technicians, and the previously mentioned musicians. Much of the music has a comedic focus, with characters passing items between frames, and on occasion allowing for a solo piece to build sentiment.

Belting out numbers from Rihanna to Radiohead, tying these artists into the works of Shakespeare is no easy feat – particularly with Twelfth Night, a usually complex choice with a variety of pitfalls. When it works, it’s a triumphant burst of luxury, lunacy and hedonism entirely befitting of the SS Illyria. If it falters, it comes off as a break in the production’s energy and pacing, a seeming sore thumb of artistic choices. When the cast gets going, celebrating the roaring Twenties with a whiskey or toddy, there’s a wealth of enjoyment emanating.

What this concoction ends up as, is a quality, fun piece of interactive theatre which refrains from shying into an easy escape online. Malting’s Theatre dive headfirst into tying the Bard to the bar, relishing the enthusiasm as they plant their flag squarely into the comedic side of Twelfth Night, offering up a few noted moments of committed drama. An authentic send-off to a Shakespearian comedy, drawing the lords, ladies (and yes, the rabble) into the story, Twelfth Night – Live! may be a vast departure from Shakespeare’s original, but this modern retelling has heart, laughs and a 20’s twist worth getting sea legs for.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub:

Shine @ Traverse Theatre

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Live Theatre

Writer: Kema Sikazwe

Director: Graeme Thompson

What defines you? Is it your past, your family? Perhaps more realistically it’s the societal labels attached from unwelcomed comments; immigrant, black, poor or untalented which ‘brand’ us. I, Daniel Blake actor Kema Sikazwe’s Shine gives an account of his own difficulties in finding his ability to not be a product of the system.

With growing resistance to theatres’ promoted history of the stories of the white middle classes, Sikazwe’s Shine requires a unique edge to stride out. It accomplishes this through its lyrical prowess – making its music the core element. It’s a pleasant reference to the narrative, that Kema’s late mother told him the power music holds and that his abilities make him shine out in the darkness of reality.

So, who are we? For Kema, he was a young boy being brought over to the council estates of Newcastle. While it wasn’t the mansion many in the Commonwealth had expected, it was still to be their home. Tragedy, racism and bullying followed – the depraved nature of uninformed people who couldn’t figure out who they were, let alone Kema. On the wrong path, music offered freedom of expression as well as therapy.

Where Shine is at its most impressive is as its music is constructed around us, Sikazwe as its maestro. As he discusses the impact music has had not only on his life but the lives of others, there’s a sense he isn’t acting. This feels real, selling his intentions even more. From the comedic turns to the serious. We are treated to renditions of dance beats, building and growing in crescendo – tunes we are all familiar with at the back of the bus.

At the risk of trivialising, Shine isn’t pushing a narrative entirely unheard of. Its importance is just as paramount though, Sikazwe’s actual accounts of bullying due to immigration or class is a relatable concept deserving to be at the forefront of theatre. What this production benefits considerably from is its musical interludes with rap styled delivery. The score is the standout aspect of the production, crafted in a manner to both entertain as well as inform.

Inspired by his ability at school to rap, the lyrical composition of these numbers is excellent. Furthering the inner turmoil of emotion, without having to spout exposition. Utilising the sound design one distinct number about firearm violence in Zimbabwe is met with chills at the sudden outbursts, Sikazwe physically conveying the anguish throughout.

Emphasising the storytelling element of the production, a keenly designed lighting from Emma Bailey has been incorporated into the set. Strip illumination adorns the walls that contain Sikazwe’s emanating moods, which ebb with the musical score. It’s quite a simple set piece, with the three flats acting to bathe Sikazew in warm light – yet at a moment’s notice confine him.

Hoping to shine bright enough to cast away shadows some audience members struggle with,Shine is an emerging voice amidst a sea of previously ignored narratives. Its individual nature should be respected, but it’s coming of age narrative doesn’t communicate anything revolutionary. That said, with issues surrounding racism, prejudice and violence ever present; perhaps a booming collective voice is required to hammer the point home. Nevertheless, Sikazwe’s performance is heartfelt, his delivery through song as well as spoken word, makes for an engaging piece.

Review originally published for Reviewshub:

Live Theatre: