by William Shakespeare
28th June - 1st July 2012
An Open Air Production in the grounds of Deans Court
Viola: Jenn Singleton
A Sea Captain: John Bruton
Orsino: Paul Dodman
Curio: Eddie Tyson-Brown
Valentine: Barry Baynton
Fabian: Sam Moulton
Maria: Judy Garrett
Sir Toby Belch: Michael J Smith
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Simon Jackson
Feste: David Pile
Olivia: Tracey Nicholls
1st Lady in Waiting: Verena Smith-Maurer
2nd Lady in Waiting: Val Mantle
Malvolio: Graham Hawkins
Sebastian: Rob Cording
Antonio: Mark Everitt
1st Officer: Barry Baynton
2nd Officer: Eddie Tyson-Brown
A Priest: John Bruton
Director : Michael J Smith
Designers : Mark Ellen & Jackson Ellen
OPEN-air theatre is a trade-off. You run the risk of gnats, creeping cold and distant police sirens, never mind rain, but in return you get the enchanting experience of theatre in a beautiful setting as a summer evening falls. Deans Court is indeed a beautiful setting, as you cross the bridge over the Allen, one of Dorset’s loveliest rivers, pass the mellow red brick of the historic house and settle down in front of a stage which has a lavender bed stretching out on either side and a backdrop of noble trees.
It helps, of course, if the production is worth seeing, and Wimborne Drama can be very proud of this one. Because they are called ‘comedies’, certain Shakespeare plays are regarded as easier to stage, but some of them have darker themes which need careful handling by director and cast. ‘Much Ado’ is the classic case, but ‘Twelfth Night’ runs it close, and it is to the credit of this production that it has been thought through to produce a consistent and believable interpretation.
For example, if Malvolio is played as more a victim than an insufferable prig, then Sir Toby Belch must be actively nasty rather than just a jolly mischief-maker. If Olivia is a gentle soul, not an autocrat, then her falling for another girl (though disguised as a boy) must be played for sympathy rather than for laughs. Personally, I think that both these choices are right, so I naturally commend this production for apparently holding the same view.
Graham Hawkins underplays Malvolio almost to a fault, but this is a considered interpretation, and one with real comedic talent in his yellow-stockinged, cross-gartered scene. Conversely, Michael J Smith (who also directs) makes Sir Toby Belch positively dislikeable – no jolly Lord of Misrule this, but an embittered individual with a chip on his shoulder of a size which only old age can bring. It is a masterly portrayal of an old reprobate, although the actor’s wish to show the effects of a lifetime’s dissipation on the voice leads to some audibility problems.
Jenn Singleton is a pretty and feisty Viola, with most expressive eyes and with the knack of holding the audience’s attention. The delivery of her ‘patience on a monument’ speech and other set pieces can hardly be faulted. Tracey Nicholls makes Olivia above all likeable, a serene but fun character for whom the audience feels nothing but sympathy.
Belch’s cronies are carried along by his malevolence, but Simon Jackson’s talents as a comedian are on full display in his Sir Andrew Aguecheek – an ageing silly ass in an extravagantly foppish costume, with more than a touch of the late Derek Nimmo about him. Judy Garrett brings an enviable authority and stage presence to the part of Maria. Shakespeare’s fools are mostly excruciatingly unfunny to modern ears and Feste is possibly the unfunniest of them all, so credit to David Pile for making him at least faintly amusing.
Giving full value to Shakespeare’s blank verse, while making it natural and comprehensible to today’s audience, is a considerable feat, and Paul Dodman as Orsino brings it off particularly well. It is noticeable how at home Rob Cording as Sebastian and Mark Everitt as Antonio are with the verse, too, although they are the least well served by an amplification system that tends to be erratic.
Take chairs, rugs, thick sweaters, insect-repellent and a picnic supper to Deans Court and you will be rewarded by a thoughtful and entertaining evening.
John Newth, Scene One
THE comedy traces the story of Viola, one of two twins shipwrecked on opposite coasts of Illyria, a country ruled by the Duke Orsino, who is suffering an unrequited love for the mourning Countess Olivia. Believing her brother to have drowned, and now alone in the world, Viola disguises herself as a boy, changing her name to Cesario, and becomes Orsino’s servant in order to survive.
However, she soon falls in love with her master and finds herself caught between him and Olivia, sent to woo her on his behalf. Things are further complicated when Olivia falls in love with the ‘boy’, leading to a love triangle that only the arrival of Viola’s brother, Sebastian, can untangle.
This company of talented actors did the bard proud. Every single one of them from the speaking parts to the non-speaking ones were excellent and no fault could be found for any of them.
The set was well thought out and enormous credit must go to the director, Michael J Smith, for the superb staging of entrances and exits. There was not a moment when the action flagged and the pace of the piece was just right. The music added to the whole atmosphere and the costumes were second to none.
For me the outstanding performances of the evening were Viola/Cesario (Jenn Singleton), Olivia (Tracey Nicholls) and Sir Toby Belch (Michael J Smith). These were of the highest order.
Well done Wimborne Drama.
Lyn Richell, Daily Echo
THE threatened thunder and gales held off over Deans Court for the opening night of Wimborne Drama's production of Twelfth Night last week, so the audience could shiver in the cold but keep dry while the actors used their new personal microphones without the intrusion of the high winds.
After the success of their Importance of Being Earnest last year, the company chose one of Shakespeare's best loved and most accessible comedies to delight its picnicking patrons, and turned the action round to perform on a stage facing the house with the backdrop of the beautiful gardens.
Veteran Michael J Smith not only directed the production, but also took the major role of Sir Toby Belch, and if he was a little slighter than usual, he captured all the roguish wit and drunken excesses of the character.
Many amateur companies bemoan the lack of younger actors, but not so Wimborne Drama, which has attracted a large number of talented young performers to join the more experienced older set.
Among them the hero/heroine of the piece, Viola, was touchingly played by Jenn Singleton, and Tracey Nicholls' Olivia matched her passion and impetuosity.
Paul Dodman's beautiful voice gave Duke Orsino a natural gravity, and Graham Hawkins was the perfect preening Malvolio.
There were memorable performances too from Simon Jackson as the asinine Sir Andrew and Rob Cording as Viola's very confused twin brother Sebastian.
Elizabethan costume and the Deans Court setting all added to the atmosphere of the show, which was enjoyed by packed audiences.
Gay Pirrie-Weir, Stour & Avon Magazine/ Blackmore Vale Magazine