Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare 16 Jul 2023 - 21 Jul 2023

presented by Illyria

Following a shipwreck, Viola is washed-up in Illyria, where her only chance for survival is to make use of her quick wit and fine singing voice, disguising herself as a man and applying to work in the court of Duke Orsino. 

The lovesick Orsino sends “him” to lady Olivia to woo her on his behalf, but Viola's efforts are so successful that Olivia falls for Viola rather than Orsino. Meanwhile Olivia’s carousing uncle Sir Toby Belch crosses swords with her steward Malvolio and devises a wicked plan to humiliate him. It could all end in tears - even if most of them are of laughter. 

Illyria presents an evening of yearning romance, music and sheer joy - all performed on a stage inspired by those of the Elizabethan touring troupes.

About Illyria

Illyria was created in 1991, and ever since has delighted audiences the length and breadth of the UK, and in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States and Canada.

Illyria has also won 4 international "Best Performance" awards and attracted numerous "5-star" and "Critics' Choice" reviews for the lively clarity of its approach to Shakespeare's plays, the high quality of its shows for Families and the refreshing originality of its English classics adaptations and Gilbert & Sullivan performances.

Illyria's mission is simply stated: to create a varied programme of outstandingly enjoyable theatre and to make it available for everyone to see.

Illyria has given more performances to more people across a wider area than any other open air touring theatre company, its presence dominates the sector and its standards set the bar high. Illyria works closely with the Equity to ensure that all its actors are paid a fair living wage and treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.


Review by Jenni Balow


Illyria might pay good Equity rates to its actors, but it gets the most out of them, extracting 17 different roles from a cast of just five actors, who dive and wriggle themselves into elaborate costumes, including an absurd pair of cross-gartered yellow stockings!

It's just as well then, that Illyria's both hardy and agile professionals clearly love what they are doing to entertain us during Shakespeare's oft-presented Twelfth Night  -  and it rubs off.

The audience faces a challenge too, needing to decipher 17 anagrams in the very welcome printed programme, to match the actor's names to their many roles. My own favourite was Marcellus Twat for Feste the clown, aka Callum Stewart.

This is his sixth season with Illyria, and he has four other roles in this play, including Sebastian, wearing a rather fine brocade tunic to match that of his twin, and trilling Tudor songs as a fine Fool.

Founder and director Oliver Gray writes in the programme that this is his third production of the play in 31 years, and each had a different focus  - this time "it is the intensity of grief, corrosive pressure of love that must be hidden, agony of love that is unrequited, and the destructive power of gaslighting" - by psychological manipulation.

Age and experience have played a part in that solemn interpretation, but he concedes that at the same time, Shakespeare intended us to "laugh our socks off" at his contrived comedy and double-entendres, and the costume designers have seen to that by presenting a Malvolio looking like a caped canary.

Nick Taylor reckons that his first role with Illyria nine years ago, appearing as a giant yellow-legged chicken in George's Marvellous Medicine, must have had something to do with the director's decision to don him in "the most famous yellow stockings in literature".

It doesn't stop there. Costumier Pat Farmer assisted by Dean Horner, fits him out in eccentric clothing from the outset, with ostentatious gilt and feather hat crowning his character. He also appears as a ship's captain, with a nice Cornish accent, possibly picked up assisting Father Christmas at the Eden Project.

MacKenzie Mellen intriguingly presents the knight, Sir Andrew, all in black with dash and distinct American drawl, and doubles as the countess Olivia, fetchingly dressed in floral flamenco style frocks trimmed with lace and frills, alongside her scheming maid Maria, Amy Lockwood, who is also a strong Viola, in disguise.

That leaves David Sayers, equally commanding as both the Duke Orsino and Sir Toby Belch, and rather prettily putting in an appearance as a gentlewoman  -  Daisy Vaders is the programme anagram.

Illyria, where this play is set, has won international 'best performance' awards and currently has a repertoire of productions in Scotland, Wales and Holland, with a proud claim to have given more open air performances to more people than any other current touring company.

The mission of this company, whose home base is in West Cornwall, is to present outstanding and enjoyable productions, available to all. So if you missed this sold-out show, check its website for a tour date near you.