Tim Finn updates Shakespeare's most musical of plays with his own compositions. Nance Haxton checks out this modern Twelfth Night:

What a wonderful tribute to Shakespeare’s timeless capacity, to make us wonder and laugh, that songs written 400 years after his play Twelfth Night was first conceived can make this merry dance digestible and meaningful for modern audiences.

This is so fitting with the classic and oft quoted line from this, one of Shakespeare’s strangest comedies,

“If music be the food of love, play on”.

Queensland Theatre take a bold step in tackling this somewhat challenging choice from Shakespeare’s canon, given the storyline that stretches even the dedicated Shakespeare fan’s plausibility limits of complicated love webs, and confusion of identity.

Twelfth Night Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Jason Klarwein & Jessica Tovey

But not only that, it employs renowned New Zealand singer-songwriter Tim Finn to compose 12 new songs and bring this play into the modern age. Some are beautiful versions of Shakespeare’s original songs, half a dozen are new compositions and, with Tim Finn’s masterful ear, entire scenes have been turned into musical interludes. The ensemble cast brings this bold interpretation to life with exquisite harmony and energy.

Twelfth Night Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Audacious themes of fluid sexual identity that Shakespeare features in the magical realm of Illyria are beautifully highlighted in Tracy Grant Lord‘s contemporary setting. The amazing spinning set adds to the confusion of who is really in love with who, raising the tempo and enabling the cast to keep up such freneticism, a party atmosphere with stars twinkling overhead.

Twelfth Night has long been Shakespeare’s most musical work, with many crediting him as being one of the founders of modern musical theatre. But the modern rock edge in this production showcases beautifully how timeless Shakespeare’s themes about identity and the fragility of love really are. It’s a daring gamble by director Sam Strong that has paid off, making a very relatable production for newcomers to Shakespeare and afficionados alike.

Twelfth Night Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Christen O’Leary

The most memorable performances come from Christen O’Leary, who brings out the anguish as well as the comedy in Malvolio, and Kurt Phelan, a standout Antonio with a mellifluous voice and a commanding stage presence.

Strong’s modern edge pays off beautifully, resulting in an enchanting experience where one feels as if you have danced on the tables and sung the ditties alongside the actors. Twelfth Night is a production full of sexual energy that celebrates life’s connections and Shakespeare’s timeless insights in all their sensuous beauty.

 

 

★★★★☆

Twelfth Night runs at Queensland Performing Arts Centre until 19 May 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.