Twelfth Night at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Photo by Richard Lakos

Twelfth Night at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – Reviews round-up

Reviews are coming in for Twelfth Night at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Owen Horsley’s vibrant revival relocates Shakespeare’s tale of romance and mistaken identities to a Mediterranean seaside café pulsating with cabaret-style music in the style of Kander & Ebb.

Headlining the production are Evelyn Miller (Patriots) as Viola, Andro Cowperthwaite (Dead Hot) as Sebastian, Raphael Bushay (Oklahoma!) as Orsino, Richard Cant (It’s A Sin) as Malvolio, and Anna Francolini (Strictly Ballroom) as Olivia.

Completing the cast are: Sally Cheng (The Wizard of Oz) as Querelle, Nicholas Karami (Arabian Nights) as Antonio/Captain, Julie Legrand (An American in Paris) as Feste, Michael Matus (42nd Street) as Toby Belch, Evelyn Miller (Patriots) as Viola, Anita Reynolds (Romeo & Julie) as Maria, Matthew Spencer (The White Factory) as Andrew Aguecheek, Katherine Toy (The Man in the White Suit) as Valentine/Priest, Jon Trenchard (The Comedy About A Bank Robbery) as Fabian/Musical Director, and Harry Waller (Oliver!) as Curio/Officer.

Twelfth Night is playing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 8 June 2024.

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Twelfth Night reviews

The Evening Standard

"Stylish and surprisingly sexy Shakespeare"

"Stylish and surprisingly sexy, in the style of a Pierre et Gilles photograph or a Jean Paul Gaultier perfume ad, Owen Horsley’s production leans heavily into the themes of sexual and gender confusion in Shakespeare’s play. His staging is witty and seductive, only marred by an almost willful lack of pace."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Telegraph

"A queer reimagining with charm – but lacking emotional heft"

"A drag queen Toby Belch takes centre stage in this so-so production of Shakespeare’s riotous comedy"

"Owen Horsley’s vibrant if uneven production of Shakespeare’s riotous comedy runs with this idea – his Illyria is so much the makeshift kingdom of hedonist layabout Sir Toby Belch that poor Orsino, King of Illyria, barely gets a look in."

"It’s a fitting interpretation for a play in which the servants of Orsino and the object of his unrequited love, the widow Olivia, largely drive the plot. Horsley though, goes a step farther still: in a play that dances with gender fluid possibility, his Sir Toby is a drag queen, lending another layer to the notion of supporting characters as central to the action."

"Yet Horsley’s overlong production struggles to cohere the play’s admittedly disparate elements. The brightly coloured spectacle of drag culture has its own poignancy, but Twelfth Night is saturated in a singularly strange sad music that rarely sings out here."

"Horsley disrupts the play’s conventional ending with a particularly poignant final tableau, but this Twelfth Night only half delivers."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Guardian

"There is much to delight in"

"Owen Horsley’s frolicking staging has jaunty music and mischief, but this production dances over sadness"

"There is much to delight in. Ryan Dawson Laight’s sumptuous costumes shine and Michael Matus gives a glorious turn in drag as Toby Belch.The physical comedy works decently with the bumbling Andrew Aguecheek (Matthew Spencer) and the sneaky Maria (Anita Reynolds), but the larger set pieces long to be pushed further. It’s Francolini’s Olivia who conveys the emotional impact of the play’s events."

"The stage is full of music and mischief, but nothing else reaches the intensity or clarity of Olivia and Viola’s scenes in this light, frolicking production by Owen Horsley. "

Kate Wyver, The Guardian
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The Times

"It all looks very stylish,"

"Owen Horsley unveils a vision of Illyria which, playing up the queer themes, ends up jabbing the audience hard in the ribs every time it aims to raise a smile. By the end of the night, you can’t help feeling a little bruised."

"It all looks very stylish, though."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Stage

"Performative passions keep the drama’s pleasure and pain at arm’s length"

"The retooling heightens the play’s romantic geometry and subversions, and there are some enjoyably camp turns and sequences of knockabout business. But while individual moments gleam, as a whole the staging fails to ignite, its musical interludes decelerating scenes that, delivered with superficial, presentational sentiment, are often already in danger of becoming laborious."

"Anna Francolini’s extravagantly grieving Olivia... is an entertainingly melodramatic grande dame, with hints of Marlene Dietrich and Édith Piaf and a dash of Norma Desmond. But her portrayal feels like a showpiece solo among performances that never rise to the same pitch."

" Overall, while this is pleasant enough entertainment, its performative passions keep the drama’s pleasure and pain at arm’s length."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Twelfth Night

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📷 Main photo: Twelfth Night at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Photo by Richard Lakos

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