Twelfth Night

Performed at The Theatre Royal Studio, York, 3-12 April 2014
and at The Dell, Stratford-upon-Avon 7 June 2014

Shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria and mourning her lost twin brother, young Viola quickly becomes entangled in the courts – and courtships – of lovelorn Duke Orsino and the beautiful noblewoman Olivia.

Viola is whisked into a world of music, pranks and mistaken identities. Disguising herself as a boy, she is caught in the centre of an almighty love triangle. When you’re wooing the woman who loves you on behalf of the man you love, can everyone get their fairytale ending..?

Shakespeare’s comic masterpiece about the many forms that love may take is given a fast, fun and folky production with live music and imaginative staging to bring this magical tale to life.

We had nearly 90 auditionees in total and spent over 24 hours in first-round auditions alone; and we sold out the Theatre Royal Studio for most of the 11 performances.

Photographs by John Saunders.

VIOLA – Laura Soper
OLIVIA – Emily White
ORSINO – Jason Ryall
SIR TOBY – Paul Osborne
SIR ANDREW – Matthew Wignall
MARIA – Stephanie Cassidy
FESTE – Maurice Crichton
FABIAN – Beryl Nairn
MALVOLIO – Nick Jones
SEBASTIAN – Matt Pattison
ANTONIO – Dan Hardy
Other parts played by members of the ensemble.


Director – Mark Smith
Assistant Directors – Steph Bartlett and Fiona Kingwill
Music – Fergus McGlynn
Lighting Design – Maria Terry
Costume – Jenny Anderton and Amy Milton
Deputy Stage Manager – Izzy Carrick

In the York Press, Charles Hutchinson wrote:

‘YORK Shakespeare Project director Mark Smith takes his cue from Duke Orsino’s opening musing, “If music be the food of love”.

‘Music is everywhere in Smith’s actor-musician version of Shakespeare’s rustic comedy, not only in the quartet of songs already in Shakespeare’s text but also before the show, at the start of each half and even for linking scenes, courtesy of Australian ex-pat composer Fergus McGlynn, who returned from six weeks in the bush with tunes aplenty.

‘Smith favoured a folk template, already in vogue from the work of Northern Broadsides and Alexander Wright’s Flangan Collective, and he steered McGlynn, his bandmate in York combo The Rusty Pegs, in the direction of Fleet Foxes and Canadian musician Old Man Luedecke. All the cast of 12 either sings or plays an acoustic instrument, predominantly guitar or ukulele, and in the tradition of folk club floor acts, it is a wonderfully inclusive way of welcoming the audience and breaking down the fourth wall.

‘It is lovely too to see Laura Soper’s Viola willingly grabbing a ukulele or concertina in the few spare moments she is not pre-occupied with driving this fast-moving production forward. More of Laura later.

‘Smith’s second key decision is to have his cast create not only the music but also all the live sound effects, from whatever they find on Maria Terry and Roberto del Pino’s set: a two-tiered attic with trunks, cases, wardrobes, an old radio and lampshades galore. For the storm scene, the tempest is conveyed by a combination of scraping mallets across a surface and rolling croquet balls.

‘Likewise, in keeping with London company The Factory, props are called into improvised service, for example when Viola’s duel with Matthew Wignall’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek is fought out between a mallet and a fly swat.

‘The effect is to remind you that the real meaning of a “play” is to play, like children do or Sir Toby Belch (Paul Osborne) and “the lighter people” do in adulthood. People like Beryl Nairn’s Fabian, Wignall’s Stan Laurelesque Aguecheek and Stephanie Cassidy’s Maria.

‘On the other hand, there are killjoys such as Nick Jones’s splendidly preposterous Malvolio and those caught up in matters of the heart, either pursuing love or burdened with a heavy soul from separation.

‘Into this category fall Orsini (very striking University of York student Jason Ryall), initially struck on Olivia (Emily White), but soon fascinated as they both are by Soper’s Viola, who has disguised herself as Cesario to work in Orsino’s court after the storm. Meanwhile, her lost brother Sebastian (Matt Pattison) and Antonio (Dan Hardy) have serious matters eating away at them.

‘In a mighty impressive cast, Soper takes the honours with the best teenage performance this reviewer has seen in years. She has a beautiful speaking voice, as musical as all the folk instruments, and a face that constantly draws you in. Stage school surely awaits; York has a young gem shining already.

‘Observing everything, ukulele in hand, is Maurice Crichton’s Feste, very much the “witty fool”, not the “foolish wit”. Along with Soper, he is an inspired piece of casting by Smith; strong singing, nimble movement, chameleon voice and always humorous.

‘This Twelfth Night ranks in the highest echelons of YSP productions: a Shakespeare comedy that never strains too hard and is full of wit, romance and fabulous music.’