The toss of a coin and the turn of a friendly Bard, Victor Kalka’s production of TWELFTH NIGHT has a novel way of presentation in this era of novel virus.

The play begins with the cast in two columns tossing a coin, with the tosser shouting the name of the character they are to portray in this particular performance. Then it’s off to shipwreck and the separation of the twins, Sebastian and Viola, with the latter washed up on the shores of Illyria, governed by the love sick Orsino, smitten by the brother bereaved Olivia.

TWELFTH NIGHT or WHAT YOU WILL, as many would know, is much ado about cross dressing and gender bending, and this production piles on extra levels by having male roles performed by females and vice versa.

‘Twas Cameron Hutt who played Olivia while Zac Bush played Viola in the performance I attended. Rowena McNicol played Orsino and Caitlin Williams portrayed Sebastian.

Eleni Cassimatis burped and boozed her way through Stoli soaked Toby Belch but blow me down, a bloke, Patrick Sunderland played the twit Andrew Aguecheek. No tucking in the tackle, however, for Leonard Sun as Valentine, Harry Winsome as the Captain and the Priest and Michael Smith as Antonio.

Maria keeps gender specific with Lucy Ross and the non specific clown, Feste, was played by Lucinda Howes.

Cross gartering became cross dressing, however, with the Malvolio role going to Sarah Greenwood, somewhat channelling Mrs. Danvers as the pious Puritan, Gothically grim in bible black smock, a scary canary in yellow.

There are some terrific choices and the cast are enthusiastic, but the gilding of the gender bender lily creates confusion rather than clarity. It dissipates the prank of disguise in love with you. Also, timing of the gags, puns, and paradoxes is sometimes sacrificed to misplaced pace.

TWELFTH NIGHT is such a witty text by a preeminent punilinguist that it is almost performer proof, which is to say, that a mere recitation of the lines is entertaining to the ear.

And pertinent. A mask clad audience ears were most certainly pricked by the many references to plague and contagion.

Following Orsino’s “If music be the food of love” musing, he states “O! When mine eyes did see Olivia first, methought she purged the air of pestilence.”

Olivia herself says of love, “Even so quickly may one catch the plague.” And Sir Toby objects to “contagious breath.”

Feste – the name now has connotation with festering as much as festive- remarks “If this were played upon a stage now, I could
condemn it as an improbable fiction.”

And that is the lark of TWELFTH NIGHT. Make of it WHAT YOU WILL.

Director/Designer Victor Kalka
Assistant Director Isabella Milkovitsch
Costume Designer Bronte Barnicoat
Sound Designer Ryan Devlin
Composer Lachlan Massey
Production Manager Madeleine Picard
Stage Manager Christopher Starnawski

TWELFTH NIGHT plays New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Wed – Sat 7:30pm Sun 5pm
Final performance Sat 23 Jan 2pm