Twelfth Night at Bridge House Theatre
The Bridge House Theatre located in Penge is a beautifully intimate space to witness magic produced by the cast and creatives of Twelfth Night.
Walking into this bar/ restaurant, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this production but I can honestly say that I was blown away. I don’t want to give too much away with fine details as you should definitely take the time to see it yourself but I will paint a small picture. The black box space was set out in the round, my favourite way to watch a Shakespeare play, with all four corners of the space accessible for the actors. The set was minimal, with just four wooden stumps in each corner, sand/ gravel in the centre and a walkway that outlined their performance area.
The cast of Twelfth Night was made up of five exquisitely trained actors, that multi-rolled a number of characters throughout the entire production. Ben Woods needs a special mention for his sheer brilliance; every time he entered I was completely focused and knew where I needed to be, each of his characters had a distinct voice, look and physicality that meant the audience were completely on track with the story whenever he was about. This can be said for the rest of the cast too, with only slight changes to the costumes, they had to rely on their accents and physicality to show that they were different characters, all of which I thought to be successful, especially from Miriam Grace Edwards playing Olivia and Antonia, rocking two very different accents. However, at times the choice of accent from other characters left some dialogue difficult to understand. Was this an accent issue or was it purely a diction one?
The direction from Guy Retallack was extremely intelligent and refreshing, the storytelling was extremely clear from start to finish and you could see how much fun the actors were having playing around with these characters . His ability to really pull out the humour within the story was just wonderful, I was laughing so hard. Saying this, I did find there to be a lack of emotion at crucial points e.g. when Viola and Sebastian were reunited, I do blame this on the seating, although when in the round I usually find that you can always see one of the characters faces, but in this instant I was constantly blocked by one of the characters backs and for me this resulted in the emotion, that I wanted to be included in, being deflected.
I do have to say; the scene where Malvolio (George Maguire) found the planted letter from ‘Olivia’ that included; Sir Toby Belch (Fayez Bakhsh), Sir Andrew (Ben Woods) and Maria (Eve Niker) was just sublime. The minimalistic set encouraged the actors to use their physicality to transport us scene by scene and the timing of this quartet was perfection. Every move was slick and precise, I felt that everyone was where they needed to be just in time and as an audience member I was slightly on edge that they would get caught. It was definitely a highlight of the performance for me.
This production used music throughout and I was almost left questioning whether this was an actor musician production as it was created and performed so brilliantly. Compositions by Ben Woods put together with Shakespeare’s dialogue just added an extra layer of intelligence to the whole performance. Woods also created a wonderful out of character finale piece to round off the performance called ‘Lost in Translation’. It was so great to listen to the entire cast sing together and in harmony so solidly. The blend was almost perfect but in places it felt like individuals were a little bit too excited vocally and for such a small space it seemed unnecessary to need to project over the top of the rest of the cast.
I absolutely loved this production of Twelfth Night and would actually return to indulge in a second performance. If you have not been to see it then you definitely need to. What a truly wonderful job done by all.
Review by Laura Whittingham
Twelfth Night is on at the Bridge Theatre until 14th July. Find out more on their website.