Twelfth Night was performed by the brilliant Merely Theatre in association with The Production Exchange and was the second performance I have had the good fortune of seeing by this group, after seeing Midsummer Night’s Dream last year. It is also incidentally my personal favourite Shakespeare play. So when I saw the poster advertising their return to the Theatre Royal I decided to risk my French exam the following day and turn up to watch.
I wasn’t disappointed, as the performance lived up to my high expectations in every way shape and form. The performance was outstanding. The entire cast were perfect, but special mentions go to Tamara Astor (playing Feste/Antonio) and Robert Myles (Malvolio/Sebastian/Officer) for inspiring performances. All the actors were fluent in words and action, and really played up the humour of this play.
The minimalist set was very versatile and added to the performance as doorways and a place to throw a tennis ball over. Costume is important when actors play multiple, gender blind roles and congratulations must go to Costume Designer, Florence Hazard, on her ability to source a supply of large yellow stockings.
An audience participation moment saw ‘Nick’ take to the stage as a priest and someone to keep an eye on Vida. I have nothing more to say on the topic apart from he did a great job!
The whole production was incredibly enjoyable and made Shakespeare accessible to wide audience. I am very much looking forward to Merely Theatres return to Wakefield.
Written by Elizabeth Sykes
Twelfth Night by Merely Theatre Company was a vibrant, funny and energetic performance that captivated everyone in the audience. Despite there being only five actors in the whole performance, the play shone, and it really brought the story to life despite the minimalist backdrop.
Some characters that really stood out for me were Feste (played by Tamara Astor) Viola (played by Simon Grujich) and Malvolio (played by Robert Myles). They all stood out for different reasons, Feste because of her wit, humour and musicality, Viola for his freshness and bright attitude and Malvolio for his great comedic timing! Who could forget the yellow stockings?
Some of the scenes made my sides hurt from laughing, especially the ones where Sir Andrew, Toby Belch and Feste got together to annoy Malvolio! It was especially funny seeing his reaction to Olivia’s letter as well!
Finally, I loved the idea of ‘genderblind’ casting- it was refreshing and modern and gave the actors more opportunities to take on roles typically given to the opposite sex.
Written by Amelia Brookes
Last night I saw Merely Theatre’s Twelfth Night and it was absolutely brilliant. It seems the company has found its niche with Shakespeare’s comedies, as there are only five of them the constant fast pace and running on and off stage adds to the comedy. There was some audience involvement, even as far as bringing someone on stage, which only added to the comedy. It seems they are prepared for anything. Tamara Astor showed she is a Swiss Army knife of talent, as she showed off her comedic and musical talent. After the company had done its bows they left the stage knocking down one of the three curtains on stage, this appeared to be unscripted but they handled it well and had the whole theatre laughing as they left.
I love the fact the company is gender blind, as it allows for both genders to feel equal and adds more comedy to certain parts. I really appreciate the chemistry between the five actors and it is clear they are enjoying preforming almost as much as the audience enjoys watching, which only adds to the enjoyment. I could watch them preform all night, and wished it would last longer I was loving it that much. I would recommend this company to anyone, and definitely suggest checking them out should they come back Theatre Royal Wakefield again.
Written by Laura Watson
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Merely Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet, as this is not the first production I have seen from this company. My expectations were high and they did not disappoint. The stripped back, minimalist set allowed you to truly focus on the brilliant acting. As there were only five actors it created a fast paced rhythm to the play that at times was hard to keep up to but when you could keep up it was a really effective telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Tamara Astor’s nurse had the whole theatre laughing, creating a bit of comic relief and showing off her incredible stage presence. The audience felt involved as actors often addressed us and occasionally members were asked questions or even climbed over. As I’m familiar with the play I appreciated such things as Simon Grujich playing both Juliet and Tybalt, due to their opposing feelings towards Romeo. He managed to play both Juliet’s naivety and Tybalt’s anger very well, as he often ran off stage as one and returned as another almost immediately. All the actors played their parts incredibly well, with obvious changes to the play to account for the lack of actors, such as the removal of Paris’s death, that did not hinder the performance. All in all, I would recommend this company to anyone wanting a taste of Shakespeare and I am truly looking forward to seeing what they do with Twelfth Night.
Written by Laura Watson.
The Lock In Remixed, a show by and featuring The Demon Barbers with Breaking Tradition Dance Company blended folk music and hip-hop in a unique and interesting way. It was opened by a showcase of no less than three local Morris dancing groups, all of whom really increased the expected standards of any future Morris dancing performances I happen to attend, all exhibiting talent and energy in huge amounts.
The show told the story of Little Red Riding Hood, with an additional two Little Red Riding Hoods, a tree dude and a narrator with an interesting hat. ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’ country pub in which the story is set was previously owned by kindly, cool and hip Grandma, who made sure it was a place where hip hop and folk blended in harmony. But, after her mysterious disappearance, there is a new landlady in town. Jasmine, who could quite possibly be, but isn’t, a wolf.
So the narrator, and the huntsman (who mysteriously disappears when the tree dude came on, if anyone noted…) It is just a theory! (but still…) call in three hip hop loving dancers in red hoods to somehow sort the whole thing out – Through dance!
The set was cleverly designed and the lighting added to the atmosphere. The soundtrack was blended folk and hip hop, which sounds as though it should be dire, but was actually quite cool. The cast were funny and fluent in both dialogue and dances, and the costumes were imaginative and clever. My personal favourite elements of the show were the sword dance and a clog dancing lesson with Jasmine.
Overall, a very exciting, lively performance with astounding routines and a very talented cast.
Written by Elizabeth Sykes.
The Lock In ‘Remixed’ is an extravaganza of hip hop and folk dancing. It tells the story of a group of hip hop dancers who find themselves inside a ‘friendly’ pub; yet they soon realise that the owner of the pub only allows traditional music and dancing! As the story progresses they find themselves dancing all kinds of folk, while the Innkeeper starts to realise that the new is just as good as the old.
I loved the way the dancers express themselves throughout the show. The Woodcutter character was very good at that, along with the aggressive and humorous innkeeper, Jasmin. One of the the things that made the show interesting and theatrical was the fact that they used a classical pantomime dame to play the character of Jasmin. This certainly intrigued the audience and made the storyline more captivating and humorous.
The stage was used wisely by the dancers and though they only had a small amount of space to dance in, they delivered professionally, and at times their performances were truly outstanding. I was especially impressed with the set. It really gave the impression of a friendly pub. You could tell you wouldn’t find it in the middle of a city, which was good, because it was said to stand in the middle of a forest, much like many of the classic folk fairy tales that inspired the story.
Overall, I think that the Lock In ‘Remixed’ is a great show for anyone who enjoys pantomimes, music or dancing; or all three combined!!
Written by Maya Sturgeon
Andrew Westfield as Biff & Chris Hannon as Colin. Photo by Amy Charles Media.
The new play by Jim Cartwright ‘Stand up Stand up’ in association with Theatre Royal Wakefield follows Bailiff Biff and stand up comedian Colin struggling with different aspects of their lives. Colin is struggling with money and meets Biff when he comes to remove goods from his house however once Biff notices the wall of comedy DVD’s he decides to give Colin a second chance and put his debt to the bottom of the pile on one condition…he has to make him laugh! After attending his show the pair strike up an unlikely friendship and Biff reveals he has always wanted to be a comedian and has one wish, to make his little girl laugh!
Chris Hannon and Andrew Westfield who play Colin and Biff respectively are both talented performers who portrayed believable characters with minimal set and props. I especially like the scene in the pub, the drunk acting was believable and not over the top. This was one of my favourite scenes and it was about the interaction between the characters and not just one liner jokes from Colin. The set was minimal with only a microphone and stand which made the audience fully focus on the acting and I think it was reminiscent of John Godber plays.
The style was typical of Jim Cartwright plays such as repetition of lines or phrases, however Hannon’s cheesy one liners were suited to the character but were a little too much for me. I felt that I couldn’t connect to the character as much as the jokes clouded his personality.
Overall I enjoyed the play but I felt that the characters lacked the warmth seen in his other plays such as Road and Two and I didn’t emotionally invest in their storylines.
Written by Frankie Payne