Ilyria comes to Covent Garden, as Iris Theatre return for their annual occupancy of the grounds of ‘The Actor’s Church’ with a bright, boisterous and immensely likeable Twelfth Night.
Led by Pepter Lunkuse’s whip-smart and convincingly boyish Viola, a game cast of eight throw themselves into some clever doubling that sees Henry Wyrley-Birch conduct a fist fight with himself in the dual-role of sea-tossed Sebastian and simpering Sir Andrew Aguecheek, adding to the happy tumult of disguise and misunderstanding.
Taking full advantage of the audience’s close proximity and the hint of chaos brought by the promenade staging, director Vik Sivalingam’s production is at its best in the subplot, where Tony Bell’s Malvolio and Robert Maskell’s roaring Sir Toby steal every scene they tumble into.
Played across five neatly realised playing areas, decked with garlands of fishing net and rusted flotsam by designer Carys Beard, it is a rough but attractive, storm-washed production. An issue with noise bleed from nearby Covent Garden street-performers slightly mars the first half hour, but otherwise the setting is the perfect hidden oasis.
A beautiful garden and a Shakespeare comedy may be a well-rehearsed kind of alchemy, but with a talented company and the weather behind it, it is as potent a mixture as ever.