Arts & Culture Events Reviews

If music be the food of love…play on

By Sarah Edwards at

The Bodleian Library in Oxford, a summer’s evening, a glass of wine and the latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night-quite frankly what’s NOT to love?
The Watermill Theatre and Oxford Playhouse have brought the production to the historic Old Schools Quadrangle and although this is the latest in a long line of new versions of the play, it was in every sense a triumph.
The setting alone creates an incredible atmosphere that is intimate, engaging and exciting and the players themselves were truly fantastic.
The production is set to jazz-known for its heady improvisatory freedom so very well suited to Twelfth Night and its comic asides and playful digressions.
The play is crammed with comedy and saucy overtones and loads of brilliant music so if you are after cross dressing, sexual ambiguity and a bit of cheeky humour then this could be your perfect summer’s evening.
Twelfth Night is a tale of unrequited love – hilarious and heart-breaking. Twins are separated in a shipwreck, and forced to fend for themselves in a strange land. The first twin, Viola, falls in love with Orsino, who dotes on OIivia, who falls for Viola but is idolised by Malvolio. Enter Sebastian, who is the spitting image of his twin sister. It all makes for a very interesting couple of hours!
Widely considered to be Shakespeare’s greatest comedy, this is a brilliantly bittersweet account of “the whirligig of time” and is the play that kicks off with lovesick Duke Orsino declaring that “If music be the food of love, play on” which immediately links music, food and love. It is Orsino’s way of making it quite clear that he needs to ease his unrequited passion and wants a feast of sensuality-and he won’t rest until he gets it.
Music is a big part of this play, and has been a focus of all the different adaptations that have been performed over the years. Heart wrenching and emotional, the score sets the scene brilliantly for what is to follow.
Orsino is not the only character to call on music to ease his emotional turmoil, Viola sees it to get into the Duke’s court and court jester or fool Feste is less comic and more song/story teller performing verses that are happy, sad and insightful.
The performers were all, without exception, superb. Acting, dancing, singing and playing a vast variety of instruments to an audience who were hanging on their every word-they brought incredible energy and excitement to the Bodleian and certainly left me wanting more.
Even the minor disruptions of a rather rude drone overhead and a Chinook helicopter thundering past, did nothing to distract from the performance.
Special mentions must go to Peter Dukes for his spectacular Malvolio-complete with yellow stockings, suspender belt and remarkable wig and make up (!), the superb Aruhan Galieva for her brilliant Olivia and Lauryn Redding’s hilarious and brilliant portrayal of Sir Toby Belch and the ability to play several different music instruments with such faultless talent. She was truly addictive to watch.
Twelfth Night by The Watermill Theatre with The Oxford Playhouse will be at The Bodleian Library, Oxford until August 4. If you don’t see any other theatre this summer, I urge you to see this. You will love it.
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