This is not your Grandmother’s version of Shakespeare.
Although Shakespeare penned this particular play, way back in 1601, the production that is being presented by Tottering Biped, out at the Rock Garden at the RBG, feels like it was written just last month.
Don’t get me wrong, almost all stagings of contemporary productions of Shakespeare, are essentially adaptations for a modern audience. Only, in London, England, at the reconstructed Globe theatre on the South Bank, will you see a version of one of the Bard’s plays in production circumstances that match the 17th century, when the plays were first performed.
Hamilton these past few months, has been at the centre of a great deal of controversy, with right wing conservative groups attacking LBGTQ2S+ citizens, at the Hamilton Pride celebrations at Gage Park. How astonishing then to find a production running, in the city soon after, that catches this precise moment in the zeitgeist.
Claudia Spadafora, is the heart and soul behind this Queer reimagining of Twelfth Night. Shakespeare’s text is full of examinations of gender, and as a classic romantic comedy, is full of music, clowning, and shenanigans, that still amuse us.
Viola, (here played by Paige Louter), is a female twin who finds herself shipwrecked on a foreign shore. She impersonates a man, named Cesario, and enters the service of the Duke of Orsino, (Jesse Horvath), who is in love with a wealthy land owner, Olivia, (Rebecca Durrance Hine).
Orsino, sends Viola in disguise as Cesario to woo her, and she falls in love with a man, who is thus, in fact a woman. The plot unfolds when Sebastian (Phillip Krusto), Viola’s twin brother arrives upon the scene — hilarity ensues over this confusion of identities — when Sebastian marries Olivia, and fights a duel against a coward, Sir Andrew.
So what has changed in this version? Well for one, it is set in a nightclub in Miami in the ’80s. Dance club music, thus becomes the literal “beat” of the drum that moves this production forward. Feste, the clown character, in Spadafora’s adaptation, becomes a drag queen, who asks the audience to see this brave new world, through their eyes. Choreography by Trevor Copp, adds an essential element, that keeps the audience engaged.
Also of note, in this production are the “clown unit” of Sir Toby (Michael Hannigan), Sir Andrew (Zach Parsons), and Mariah, (Nada Abusaleh) — they in a significant sub–plot create great mirth in their “gulling” of the Master of the household, Malvolia, here played as a woman by Alma Sarai.
Of all of the plays that Shakespeare wrote, Twelfth Night is the most musical of them, with half a dozen original songs in the script. Only one of those songs has survived in this new version, other, more contemporary songs have been added, including one that recalls the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
The ending of the play, which I will not spoil for you, adds a very significant difference to the production of the play.
It is rare to get to write a “rave review” — but here at last is my chance! All too frequently, I sit through local theatre productions, that have very little to say about the world that we all live in. They serve no purpose beyond frittering away a few hours, in the dark watching a play.
But Tottering Biped’s production of Twelfth Night is everything that I seek in an evening at the theatre. It is well produced, well acted and performed by a committed company of players, and it has something meaningful and vital to say. There are a another week of performances left over the next two weekends, and I urge you to attend. Trust me, this is what great theatre is meant to be. V
Presented by Tottering Biped Theatre
At the RBG Rock Garden
1185 York Boulevard.
Performances - Mondays through
Fridays at 7:00pm
August 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30