Thursday, 20 December 2012

Twelfth Night - review

Written by: Wendy Haines (@Wendyfer1)

Hoxton Hall, London

Hoxton Hall is one of those adapted theatre spaces that bears the kind of unique charm achieved by old buildings that lend themselves to community arts projects. Retaining its character, players in the theatre utilise the surrounding balconies, unusual three-tier staging and church-like arrangement for their benefit. The salon:collective have chosen to perform the Christmas frolicking classic Twelfth Night in the space with a touch of panto, farce and cabaret.

The most noticeable visual effect is the clutter of objects around the stage, including a giant red bowler hat, a donkey mask, a white bird’s wing and a chair hanging from the ceiling. Their unclear purpose creates a delightful curiosity. The whole experience deconstructs itself in the opening with the actors (or more their personas) roaming the hall pretending to warm up. Here we get the first taste of interactivity, something brought back intermittently throughout the performance.

The show has been described as interactive pantomime; this is understandable, but as I have stated previously, it also has elements of farce, as well as cabaret and Brechtian deconstruction. Somehow it’s a serious drama with realist acting as well. This is the performance’s main flaw: the audience are constantly flitted between styles but none are committed to in any way. One minute we’re being encouraged to sing Christmas songs, the next watching Malvolio break down mentally in solitary confinement. While on that topic, it should be said that Michael Luke Walsh’s performance as the cross-gartered fool is very powerful. Kim Hardy is also very entertaining as Feste and Sebastian.

Much of the acting in the many modes of genre is well executed, but it is difficult to engage when you can’t settle anywhere. There is not enough audience interaction to justify it, unlike in any Belt Up performance, for example, where the balance is perfected. The consequence of this is everyone feeling extremely awkward. Similarly, pantomime is a genre that defines itself through having little room for negotiation. It’s at least fifty per cent tradition and you must commit to it with conviction if you want to follow it. A few funny moustaches and one sing-along followed by heart-wrenching drama will only leave an audience confused.

Twelfth Night has the potential to be absolutely hilarious and many opportunities were missed in this production. Nevertheless, Malvolio’s humiliation, at least before the aftermath, was chokingly funny and Feste had some true highlights. There is promise for a great show, it just needs some cohesion. 

This production runs until 22 December 2012. 
@HoxtonHall @CollectiveSalon

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