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Twelfth Night - First Encounters: Review

The RSC's First Encounters production of Twelfth Night aims to make Shakespeare more accessible for children and those who may not be familiar with Shakespeare's work or feel a bit intimidated by the language that he uses.

The poster for the production

The production began with each character being introduced, along with assistant director Nicky Cox (who also stood in for Feste due to cast illness) giving a brief overview of the play as well as some historical background (did you know that Twelfth Night was also given the title 'What you will'?) The cast then perform a significantly cut down version of the play (after the introductions, the play lasted about an hour and ten minutes in total).

Twelfth Night tells the story of twins Viola (Daniella Agredo Piper) and Sebastian (Stanton Wright) who become separated after a storm hits the ship they are both travelling on. Viola disguises herself as a boy and goes to work for Orsino (Ibraheem Toure), who she begins to fall in love with. Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia (Laura Smithers), so he sends Viola to woo her on his behalf. But Olivia (believing Viola to be a man) falls in love with Viola instead! Keeping up?

Sebastian (Stanton Wright) and Olivia (Laura Smithers)

The play is incredibly funny and the cast make the story very easy to follow. The children in the audience were all engaged throughout (as were the adults!). The set was all recycled materials from past RSC shows, with bunting created by local school children in each location of the tour. Children from local schools were also involved in the production as sailors, each having their own lines and assisting Viola as she disguises herself as a boy. Members of the audience also got involved, with one little girl asked to participate as a guard and another woman invited to become a priest - and both were invited back to the stage to take a bow at the end of the evening!

My favourite characters were Sir Toby Belch (Tyreke Leslie), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Stanton Wright in a second role) and Maria (Pérola Congo) who all plotted together to humiliate Malvolio (Emma Manton). It was very funny watching them come up with the dastardly scheme, whilst trying to avoid a telling off from Malvolio, although I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for Malvolio when she ended up the butt of the joke!

This was a great production, and I believe a perfect introduction for those who have never seen Shakespeare before (or might be a bit scared of it!). A thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes of entertainment - who needs trick or treating on Halloween? This was 100% treat!

'Twelfth Night - First Encounters' continues touring throughout November. More info here:

Tom Morley, Halloween 2022

Maria (Pérola Congo) and Sir Toby Belch (Tyreke Leslie)


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