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Twelfth Night review at Octagon Bolton

Queen Elizabeth I is purported to have enjoyed it and, 400 years after it was written, Twelfth Night is still proving popular with audiences. The Octagon’s artistic director Mark Babych has chosen this most lyrical of all Shakespeare’s comedies to kick off his autumn season and also to mark the Octagon’s first Shakespeare for nine years.

The story is set in the early part of the last century and, judging by the music, Illyria is meant to be an island somewhere near South America although Patrick Connellan’s gigantic picture frame set gives no clue to the location. In an attempt to make the Bard accessible to the youthful audience, Babych’s production tends to spell out the plot in rather simplistic terms, often at the expense of the verse. The result is that the poetry tends to be mumbled or gets lost along the way.

There are however, some good performances, particularly from Inika Leigh Wright who makes a sensuous Olivia while Giles Cooper tackles the difficult role of Sebastian with conviction, and David Groves is the love-sick Orsino.

There is a funny double act from Debra Penny who makes a delightful Maria, with Matthew Rixon as a jovial Sir Toby Belch. But it is the superb performance from Michael O’Connor, as a rather garrulous Irish Feste, which makes this production worthwhile. He sings the plaintive songs beautifully.

In a production which lasts just over three hours, the pace certainly needs to be improved.

Production Information

Octagon, Bolton, September 23-October 16

William Shakespeare
Mark Babych
Octagon Theatre
Cast includes
Inika Leigh Wright, Giles Cooper, David Groves, Michael O’Connor
Running time
3hrs 25mins

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