Twelfth Night, Chichester Minerva Theatre, review: ‘It feels like first-term drama-students experimenting with a text and failing’

Flute Theatre are at The Minerva with their adaptation of Shakespeare’s sublime Twelfth Night.

Thursday, 17th January 2019, 10:21 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:34 pm
Twelfth Night, by Flute Theatre, will be at Chichetser Minerva Theatre until January 26.

Note that word – adaptation – for in form it bears little resemblance to Shakespeare’s original and the rich text has been razed.

Adaptor and director Kelly Hunter seems to have made some arbitrary choices in reordering the text. If you’re expecting your evening to open with ‘If music be the food of love…’ – hang on. It’s not coming at you just yet.

I’m sure there’s a decent reason for the gender-fluid casting, too, but it evaded me. Maria is male and Sir Toby Belch female for no apparent reason. It improves nothing; it adds nothing.

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A cast of actor/musicians always worries me, for rarely can their talent in one area match the other and this is true here. All excellent musicians (lovely original score by Tom Chapman, doubling as Malvolio) but the acting is just not up to scratch.

The whole cast need to recall basic technique. There is so much unnecessary and meaningless movement – waving arms, shuffling feet – that it becomes a distraction. They must also learn to trust Shakespeare – they try too hard with the dialogue; too much demonstration, not enough thought.

Occasionally – Olivia’s longing for Cesario, Viola and Sebastian’s reunion, Malvolio’s final, embittered speech – the company rises to the standard of the piece but mostly it feels like first-term drama-students experimenting with a text and failing.

Until January 26.