Andrew McNee, Allan Zinyk, Robert Olguin, Jonathon Young

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is believed to have been written at the turn of the 17th century (according to Wikipedia), however this centuries-old comedic tale of mistaken identities and love has been brought into slightly more modern times for Bard on the Beach’s 24th season kick-off production.

Playing on Twelfth Night, or What You Will, the official title for Twelfth Night, Bard on the Beach has transformed the BMO Mainstage into the What You Will Spa, a 1913 opulent European beachside resort.

Todd Thomson, Rachel Cairns
[Todd Thomson, Rachel Cairns]

Set designer Pam Johnson has beautifully encapsulated the atmosphere of the era, including a unique steam cabinet that must be seen to be believed, a bell desk, and a charming, boozy lounge. The three major sets are in rotation during the course of the evening.

Merriment fills the lounge as the boys get cracking on their bottles of whiskey, drinking the night into a stupor. All but Malvolio (Allan Zinyk) partake, and when he threatens to stop the fun by sending them away, a brilliant ploy by hotel employee Maria (Naomi Wright) kicks the shenanigans up a notch.

Rachel Cairns, Todd Thomson
[Rachel Cairns, Todd Thomson]

As Viola, convinced that her twin brother Sebastian has been lost at sea in a shipwreck, morphs into Cesario, servant to Duke Orsino (Todd Thomson), a hilarious evening gets underway. Rachel Cairns is wonderful as the “woman turned man who seduces her master’s affection”.

Craig Erickson, Jonathon Young
[Craig Erickson, Jonathon Young]

Stories weave in and out as the well-rehearsed, talented cast come and go on stage. The Fool (brilliantly played by Jonathon Young) entertains us with song during both set shifts and scenes. It’s fun to watch songs take hold, whether with a guitar or sung along to the record player. Young will be kept busy this summer, also starring in Hamlet this weekend (a Kim Collier-directed production alternating with Twelfth Night).

Naomi Wright, Allan Zinyk, Bill Dow
[Naomi Wright, Allan Zinyk, Bill Dow]

Bill Dow is a riot to watch on stage as he staggers with bottle in hand, playing Uncle Toby Belch, a fitting name. Together with his friend Aguecheek (Richard Newman), they make mischief, to the delight of the audience.

Bathed in soft blue and violet lighting (courtesy of Lighting Designer Gerald King, who picked up a Jessie Award earlier this week for Bard’s Macbeth), the relatively simple storyline is enhanced by the natural backdrop of the open stage, showing off the remaining colour of the day, changing dramatically into act two when all is dark beyond what the audience sees up front on stage. All Bard Mainstage shows benefit from this unique setting.

Twelfth Night continues at Bard on the Beach’s BMO Mainstage through September 14. Visit the Bard website for ticket and schedule details.

All photos by David Blue.

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