Victoria Esplanade Rose Gardens, Palmerston North

27/02/2020 - 07/03/2020

Production Details

She loves him, who is really her (or is it them), who loves him, who loves her (who he thinks is him), but thinks he loves her, who marries him (who she thinks is her who she thinks is him), who loves him (and her?).

Come join us in the Rose Garden for Shakespeare’s riotous, drunken, gender-bending, jukebox musical of a party, set in a modern Illyria channelling the 80’s/90’s Vaporwave AESTHETIC は線フ.

Bring your picnics, your partners, and your party gear!

Victoria Esplanade Rose Gardens, Palmerston North
February 27 – March 7

Theatre , Outdoor ,

Frisky, feisty and funny alfresco frolic

Review by Richard Mays 04th Mar 2020

What could be more artfully festive than a warm summer’s eve in Palmerston North’s Esplanade Rose Gardens accompanied by the Bard’s inimitable characters, their freewheeling capers and cleverly contrived cavorting.

Hawaiian shirts and pastel hues reign, and with its own live 80s music DJ in Kane Forbes, this colourful Shakespearean romcom resembles a Lost and Found meets The Bachelorette meets Marriage At First Sight mash-up – only with a much better script.

Replete with missing twins, cross-dressing disguises, mistaken identity, misplaced affections, romantic delusion and instant marriage, this fun back-to-the-80s flavoured time-warp hits the spot.

Key to the production is director Mel. Cook’s astute casting.

With great glee and gusto, Toby Lockhart’s Feste the singing jester presides over revels largely driven by Phil White’s vociferously drunken Sir Toby Belch in cahoots with Maria, Lady Olivia’s vivacious PA played by Shivarn Stewart.

While conning Matt Schaw’s lily-livered Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the conniving couple have targeted Olivia’s household steward, the overbearing Malvolio, for a canny payback practical joke. Jack Eden provides masterful vocal projection and presence as the hapless about-to-be-humiliated major domo, eliciting audience sympathy after he is effectively bullied into submission.

Meanwhile Olivia, in an eye-catching portrayal by Lisa Swinbanks, is fending off the romantic overtures of Feidhlim Hall’s traditionally sighing and besotted Duke Orsino.

Instead, Olivia has fallen for Cesario the Duke’s young and articulate emissary, not realising that ‘he’ is Viola, a shipwrecked young woman in survival-mode disguise who is convinced her twin brother Sebastian has perished at sea.

To Viola, secretly in love with her boss the Duke, Sasha Lipinsky brings precisely the pluck and physicality this pivotal double-minded, sexually ambivalent role requires.

Notwithstanding the romantic outcome, the vividly posed vignettes, or the calibre of its cast, the production effectively turns on White’s OTT antics as the maverick, tanked up, bottle-biffing Sir Toby.

Focused on a crosswalk platform built over the Rose Garden fishpond, and to the strains of Aha, Th’ Dudes, Boy George, Rick Astely, Joe Jackson and The Clash among others, the production neatly restricts its use of the water to great effect.

Atmospherically lit, and ranging over a wide area of the gardens, including up a tree, this frisky, feisty and funny alfresco frolic amidst the flora, rollicks along with plenty of appeal.

[This review originally appeared in The Manawatū Standard]


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