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Outdoor Theatre Review: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in Notts' Beer Gardens

14 August 18 words: Hazel Ward

Get yersen' some culture with your beer this summer

Nothing better that a beer garden with the sun shining, the booze flowing, and … 17th century noblemen and cross-dressing servants. Hey, why not? Much Ado About Theatre are currently touring Twelfth Night in a selection of beer gardens around the East Midlands, and tonight’s setting is Notts fave the Canalhouse.

Much Ado’s Twelfth Night doesn’t stray far from the original, making for a straight-forward yet entertaining adaptation of Shakespearean love triangles, mistaken identity, and coincidence. Instead, the novelty comes from the settings of their performances – various beer gardens around East Midlands. Each location obviously presents its own challenge - in this case, it’s the people in the adjacent outside section who seem to be determined to do their best to drown out the Bard’s words, but the cast maintains its focus with aplomb and things settle down soon.

Of the actors themselves, Sir Toby is a crowd-pleaser, roaring and stumbling his way drunkenly about the scenes like Captain Jack Sparrow (we’re talking early Pirates of the Caribbean Sparrow here, of course – back when he was still entertaining) and Peter Radford as Orsino has a light touch that turns what could have been broad buffoonery into a comic but still sympathetic performance. Emily Shilan (Olivia) also adds pathos to what could have been a one-note character in other hands, and the entire cast is adept at riffing on their surroundings and improv-ing with willing audience members.

Two minutes before the interval, Britain’s summer has a bit of a relapse and goes back to its old standby, torrential rain: another downside to outdoor theatre. However, by the time the audience has return with drinks and sustenance (chip cobs for this reviewer) the cast and crew have created themselves a space on the Canal House’s covered deck, and we’re all ready for more. The rain ultimately creates a greater sense of camaraderie between the crowd and the actors – who isn’t used to the whims of British summer time? – and the play continues with renewed energy to its climax, before ending with a quick song. The cheers from the crowd are proof enough that a good time has been had, but perhaps an even greater proof is the scattering of random pub goers who find themselves caught up in the play from afar, one of whom can be heard muttering, “It’s good isn’t it?”

Twelfth Night is currently touring the East Midland's beer gardens

Much Ado About Theatre's website


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