University Players closes the 2022-2023 season with a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, taking place on Brighton Beach in the Victorian era, directed by Yanna Mcintosh. This beloved romantic comedy is a classic Shakespearean combination of shipwreck, mistaken identity, unrequited love, and fools who speak the truth. The story follows identical twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in the storm, shipwrecked and washed up on the shores of Illyria. Viola decides to dress as a man, Cesario, in order to gain entry into Orsino’s court. Soon she falls in love with Duke Orsino, who is in love with the Countess, Olivia. As the boy servant, “Cesario,” Viola quickly becomes Orsino’s favorite page and is given the task of wooing Olivia on Orsino’s behalf. When Orsino sends a love letter to Olivia via Viola, Viola’s a little too good at her job and she finds herself in the middle of a messy love triangle when Olivia falls in love with “Cesario”. Sebastian believes his sister to be dead, arrives in Illyria and befriends a sea captain named Antonio. Sebastian meets Olivia, whom she mistakes for Cesario, and falls for Olivia himself! Amidst all the chaos, true love emerges, and all is revealed.
The acting throughout the production was impactful and impressive. The dialogue of Shakespeare plays tends to be complicated and verbose, but the cast handled it with skill and precision. There was a brief moment where a character had to rely on a script to get through a very long-winded scene and was the only major critique of all of the aspects considered. Tobi Usman kicked off the production showcasing his smooth vocals and had consistently held a strong presence throughout the show and did an excellent job remaining in character even when he was not the person speaking.. Annie Roberts achieves another fantastic performance with the portrayal of Viola. Her acting is emotional, captivating, and well-rounded. Georgie Savoie is a standout with her portrayal of the fool and features her beautiful vocals and charming personality. Makayla Ashenden performs the character of Olivia with competence and does an excellent job selling the story of a woman who is infatuated with Cesario. Abbey Gagnon portrays Malvolio with a sense of humour, sass and fun and highlights what it means to steal a show even when you’re not the lead role.
The design elements of the show were some of the best University Players productions to date. The set pieces were well constructed and effective in selling the plot of the Brighton Beach in the Victorian era. The lighting was well-timed and effectively used in scene transitions and the sound was well composed for the production and furthered storytelling. The costumes and makeup were absolutely fantastic and so well-suited for the era and assisting identifying the characters. Viola’s transformation to Cesario has the most impactful costuming when making the transition from male to female throughout the story and the mirrored look worn by Sebastian effectively sells the plot of identical twins and mistaken identity.
Overall, the production of Twelfth Night as a whole showcased skilled acting and directing and made for great entertainment and was an excellent closer for the season. Though the play was a bit longer in runtime than University Players other performances, it is fast paced and keeps the audience engaged and laughing. Most of the actors knew their lines and portrayed their characters with conviction. There were a few stumbles here and there but made for an eminently likeable production of ‘Twelfth Night’ that plays well into the comic side of things and has a warm and palpable love for its characters. I would recommend seeing this production for some lighthearted entertainment and I am very much looking forward to the next season of University Players.
Shakespeare’s gender-bending romcom, Twelfth Night, opens March 24th and plays through April 2nd. The show runs approximately 3 hours. Recommended for ages 10+. Tickets are available at University Players (Essex Hall Theatre, 401 Sunset Ave, Windsor, ON), by phone at (519) 253-3000 ext. 2808, or on the University Players website.
“If music be the food of love, play on!” – Duke Orsino