Twelfth Night or What You Will is Shakespeare's only play with a double title and Oddsock's brilliantly funny touring adaptation coupled with the addition of live pop songs and utter silliness will have you doubling up with laughter and falling off your folding chair on to your picnic hamper!
The main plot is that Shakespeare's characters of Viola and Sebastian are brother and sister twins separated by misfortune at sea and the audience are required to believe that they could be misunderstood for each other. Countess Olivia is grieving over the loss of her brother whom she has sworn to mourn for seven whole years before considering any man as a lover. Viola meanwhile believes that her brother Sebastian has drowned after their ship capsized on the shores of Illyria. The main action of this play resolves this dual loss and a sub plot revolves around the haughty and prudish Malvolio – steward to Olivia. He is tricked in thinking that the woman he serves is secretly in love with him and the play finishes with him being further ridiculed and love eventually conquering all. Malvolio's last words are “I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!” The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular and mature comedies and examines human urges including sex, food, drink and revenge and higher longings for justice and love. Well that is the story for the Shakespeare purists; the same purists who are not sat on the grass at Nottingham Castle thoroughly enjoying some great entertainment courtesy of OddsocksTheatre Company.
And now over to the real review...
Such silliness prevails throughout the whole evening, the performers drop in and out of character, ad lib like crazy and even rail at a passing plane mid speech. The comic timing is spot on and all of the group sing and play musical instruments with Brit Pop Bard bravura. And that's not easy to say!
All of the cast double up in various roles with the exception of Lucy Varney as a sparky Olivia. A newcomer to Oddsocks, Varney appears to be having the time of her theatrical life and this infectious nature of fun is evident in all of the Oddsocks cast. Andy Barrow revels in his delightfully comical role as the droll and pompous Malvolio and encourages the audience to suggest an accent for his one line priest character. Peter Hoggart appears occasionally as the lost brother Sebastian and keeps the energy going as a black wigged rocking Lord of Misrule Feste the clown. The cost of the wigs alone in this production must be hair raising!
Taking the brunt of the action and songs is Rebecca Little as Viola and Maria and Viola's male alter ego Cesario. Little is no stranger to Nottingham audiences as she has been in the Nottingham Playhouse annual panto for the last sixteen years as well as reprising her roles with Oddsocks. Her pedigree shows in abundance as she delightfully sings and clowns her way throughout the show.
Gavin Harrison as Duke Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheek is charmingly bonkers (a dual requirement of performing with Oddsocks methinks) in both roles but particularly funny in his drunken scenes with show stopper Kevin Kemp as the perpetually playfully paralytic (not easy to say either) heavy metal loving Sir Toby Belch. Kemp's performance has to be several of the highlights of Oddsocks' Twelfth Night.
Well, say 'What You Will' Twelfth Night by Oddsocks is one of the funniest evenings this reviewer has ever spent watching theatre outdoors. I will definitely be returning on Friday for their Much Ado About Nothing!