Twelfth Night

Gladstone Vinyard, Wairarapa

09/02/2012 - 11/02/2012

Botanic Gardens: The Dell, Wellington

17/02/2012 - 03/03/2012

Production Details

Summer Shakespeare returns to the Dell with beloved comedy Twelfth Night 

“If music be the food of love, play on”

Recently it was announced that favourite summer event, the Gardens Magic concerts have been shifted to March-April 2012, but Wellingtonians will not have to wait until autumn for lively entertainment to accompany their summer picnics. Summer Shakespeare’s Victoria University season of Twelfth Night will play in the Dell from 17 February. BYO picnics highly recommended!

Twelfth Night, directed by Melanie Camp, will be an occasion of frivolity, food and wine. From raucous comedy to swooning romance, Camp’s production, set by the seaside in the 1920s, swings through the many moods of love and life with wit, laughter and live music.

Camp says, “the 1920s setting is crazy, colourful and raucous; and has a great sense of contrast between dark and light: that tinge of sadness that is necessary to fully appreciate happiness. I think New Zealand audiences today understand this feeling after all we’ve been through recently. People want to enjoy themselves because they understand how precious these happy days are.”

Twelfth Night features a vibrant cast of talented actors including graduates and students of the Victoria University Theatre Programme and ToiWhakaari New Zealand Drama School. As well as a selection of New Zealand’s next generation of top actors, this well-rounded cast includes more experienced performers: Todd Dixon, Ross Young and Kirsty Hamilton.

Twelfth Night promises to be a sassy, mischievous affair with colourful costumes and lively music: “so much of today’s fashion is scruffy and eclectic, but why don’t we create something really pretty and sexy? Sharp suits and glamorous dresses that will bring out the best in young actors. They can look good and misbehave at the same time – it’s the perfect combination.”

The community will welcome this February event in the Dell, and can look forward to the chance to make the most of the long summer evenings.

The Victoria University of Wellington Season of Twelfth Night will play at
Gladstone Vineyard, Wairarapa 9-11 February, 5:30 pm
The Dell, Wellington Botanic Gardens 17 February-3 March 7 pm
(no show Mondays)
Sunday Matinee performances, Sunday 19 and 26 February, 4pm

Tickets $15 Full/ $10 Concession
Bookings through Downstage Theatre
Phone: 04 801 6946
and door sales on the night (eftpos available)   

Duke Orsino: Vaughan Luckman
Olivia:  Alexis Jackson
Viola:  Alice Pearce
Sebastian:  Andrew Gunn
Malvolio:  Ross Young
Maria:  Kirsty Hamilton
Sir Toby:  Todd Dixon
Sir Andrew:  Andrew Clarke
Fabian:  Catherine Croft
Feste:  Sam Hallahan
Antonio:  Tessa Belich/ Hilary Penwarden

Xanda Eves
Jessica Coppell
Cathy-Ellen Paul
Hilary Penwarden
Anna Neyland
Tessa Belich

Director:  Melanie Camp
Producer:  Sally Thorburn
Production Manager:  David Goldthorpe
Stage Manager:  Joseph Mahoney
Assistant Stage Manager:  Eden Williams
Publicity and Marketing Manager:  Fiona McNamara
Set and Publicity Designer:  Theo Wijnsma
Costume Designer:  Jody Burrell
Lighting Designer:  Elliott Harris
Musical Director:  Hannah Fraser
Sound Designer:  James Carroll
FOH Manager:  Fingal Pollock  

Classic Shakespeare fare

Review by Lynn Freeman 23rd Feb 2012

The story of the twins who believe each other drowned only to find themselves in a romantic quadrangle, and the shenanigans of the servants and drunken noblemen, are classic Summer Shakespeare fare. Setting it in the 1920s works extremely well, with gorgeous garments (designed by Jody Burrell), cocktails and general frivolity of the period suiting the tone of the play.

Director, former Cantabrian Melanie Camp has coupled her vision for the play with a terrific cast, a mix of trained and untrained, who work wonderfully well as an ensemble.  The pre-show entertainment of onstage songs and interaction with the audience gets us in the mood and makes the most of the garden setting.

A row of beach houses is the set, designed by Theo Wijnsma. It’s an attractive and smart concept for a play that demands a lot of set changes and rapid exits and entrances.

As always sound is an issue with outdoor productions, some actors struggle to be heard while others, especially as the play nears its end, start rushing through their lines. Minor quibbles for a hugely entertaining couple of hours. 


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Flappers by the sea add to the laughs

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 23rd Feb 2012

There has probably been no other time in recent history for frivolity and decadence than the 1920’s flapper era. And so using this period as a setting for one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies Twelfth Night, enhanced by the seaside theme, has much going for it. 

This year’s Summer Shakespeare production under the assured and creative direction of Melanie Camp does much to use this to bring out the humour with many delightful 1920’s slapstick antics in flapper costumes and appropriate beach attire. 

Set Designer Theo Wijnsma’s row of wonderfully colourful beach huts with equally colourful blankets strung between each creates a magnificent backdrop to the action of the play and provides many and varied places for the actors to enter and exit.

The action that is played out is the well known story of Viola (Alice Pearce) dressed as a boy and, as Cesario, becoming servant to and falling in love with Orsino (Vaughan Luckman) who is in love with Olivia (Alexis Jackson)) who in turn falls for Viola as a boy.  Sebastian (Andrew Gunn), Viola’s twin brother, also turns up making the love triangle become a quartet. 

While these episodes of unrequited love are played out other members of Olivia’s household are upto hijinks of their own, namely Maria (Kirsty Hamilton) and Sir Toby Belch (Todd Dixon) tricking the pompous Malvolio (Ross Young) into thinking that Olivia loves him.  They also trick Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Andrew Clarke) into a duel with Viola.

Feste the Fool (Sam Hallahan) as a barman adds much to the developing mayhem and sings a number of delightful songs. Singing of songs from the era by a large number of the company before the show starts and at the interval adds’s much to the 1920’s atmosphere. 

And throughout the production there are many quirky and delightful innovations, all of the period, to aid the action such as the fight between Viola and Sir Andrew Aguecheek which becomes a duel at 20 paces with tennis rackets.

And unlike often happens with Summer Shakespeare production where youthful enthusiasm and energy overtakes clarity of dialogue and subtly of meaning, this production, while still maintaining a good sense of pace with lots of energy comes across clear and articulate.

The experience and ability of the lead players especially showed that they were all well versed with their lines, understanding well the subtle nuances and by plays inherent in the dialogue while still having a lot of fun.

Delightful outdoor entertainment on a summer’s evening.  


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A festive air of midsummer madness

Review by John Smythe 19th Feb 2012

“If this were play’d upon a stage now,” says Fabian of the gullible Malvolio’s falling for the fake love letter from Olivia that has caused him to parade in yellow stockings and cross garters, “I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” Thus Shakespeare ‘bites his thumb’ at Aristotle’s dictum that probability is a crucial prerequisite for good comedy.

After all, Twelfth Night asks us to believe that a young woman may convince all and sundry she is male simply by dressing as a man – albeit with a “small pipe [like] the maiden’s organ, shrill, and sound” – and that she and her believed-to-have-perished twin brother, conveniently wearing the same clothes, will therefore be mistaken for each other by those who know them well.

The purpose of this play is not, of course, to replicate real life but to tease out – through our willing suspension of disbelief – human desires and foibles in the context of what we call ‘the silly season’ (a.k.a. the twelve days of Christmas).

This Mel Camp-directed production is happily antipodean in that it’s the height of summer, in the 1920s. Set and props designer Theo Wijnsma’s row of boardwalk changing sheds and hanging beach towels, and Jody Burrell’s splendid costume designs bring a festive air of midsummer madness to proceedings.

As we have come to expect from Shakespeare productions nowadays, there is absolute clarity and understanding in the delivery of a text that sounds perfectly natural in the mouths of this cast. I do not take this for granted but celebrate it whole-heartedly.  

Alice Pearce is as credible a Viola as one may hope to see, effortlessly negotiating her Cesario through the minefield of misdirected and unrequited love with just the right balance of vulnerability and assertiveness; innocence and wisdom.  

While Vaughan Luckman’s laid-back Orsino is not entirely convincing as a man poetically ‘in love with love’ and/or used to getting his own way, Alexis Jackson, as Olivia, allows passion and sensuality to seep seductively from beneath her widow’s weeds.

Pompous self-importance and self-love exude from every pore of Ross Young’s rich-voiced Malvolio but the all-important heights of ecstasy and depths of agony are not achieved (harsh, I know, but I am not the only one who tends to judge a Twelfth Night production by the amount of compassion we finally feel for the humiliated Malvolio).

Mind you, while I can see that using the outside dunny as ‘the dark house’ must have seemed like a good idea at the time, reducing Malvolio to voice and hand-gestures only, through the crescent moon cut in the dunny door, does conspire against our engaging with and feeling for him.

Todd Dixon is suitably soused as the alcoholic Sir Toby Belch and Andrew Clarke is a wonderfully Wildean Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Kirsty Hamilton takes Maria from stern housekeeper to co-carouser and conspirator with alacrity.

Making Feste, the clown and Olivia’s ‘fool’, the barman is inspired and Sam Hallahan makes the most of the opportunities. Catherine Croft’s Fabian completes the quintet of fun-seekers at Malvolio’s expense. Together they are a formidable and – yes – credible team of mischief-makers.  

Andrew Gunn as Sebastian and Hilary Penwarden as Antonio bring clarity and strength to the brother’s subplot, ensuring there is enough jeopardy towards the end to create the tension required to build the drama before the release of happy resolution.

Penwarden is joined by Bethany Miller, Cathy-Ellen Paul, Anna Neyland, Jessica Copland and Xanda Eves to fill out various scenes as moustachioed lords, simpering ladies, keystone-esque cops, a sea-captain and priest.  

These women and others in the cast sing songs of the era before the show and during the interval under the musical direction of musician Hannah Fraser, mostly too slow for my liking but beautifully all the same. They certainly set the mood exquisitely.

Mel Camp has cast this production extremely well. Along with the production and backstage team they ensure a highly enjoyable night at The Dell (or Old St Pauls if the weather cracks up). 


John Smythe February 22nd, 2012

Thanks Owen, sorry Sam - fixed now. 

Owen Baxendale February 22nd, 2012

Good review, Mr. Smythe, though I should note that the actor playing Feste was, in fact, Sam Hallahan. Cheers!

Editor February 19th, 2012

Apologies - this was attached to the wrong production page initially.

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