It could be argued that there is a magic unlike no other, when seeing Shakespeare under the stars. As any bard-loving, Melbournian would know – The Australian Shakespeare Company regularly performs a range of plays each summer on the expansive lawns of the Royal Botanic Gardens. The wonder of the legendary bards plays is only amplified from the green surroundings.
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s comedies – a tale that, if you’re similar to this author, you would only be familiar with from the (utterly incredible) movie; She’s the Man. It was with this faint knowledge of the play that I headed into the showing, eagerly anticipating a rousing game of soccer to unfold (not really, but you never know) and perhaps an appearance from Amanda Bynes (one can dream).
Instead, we were treated to an enigmatic display of hidden identity, drunken tomfoolery and general merriment. For any unfamiliar with the classic play, we are introduced to our main heroine, Viola. Victim of a shipwreck that “supposedly” killed her twin brother, Viola decides to disguise herself as a male (because obviously, flawless logic), and enter the service of the Duke Orsino. Obviously hijinks and mischief prevails before love and joy enters to finish the show.
The entirety of the production is enjoyable, all actors have seemingly thrown themselves into their roles with enthusiastic abandon, playing up the humorous elements of the play with a few quips about passing helicopters and interfering noises from a nearby celebration. There is an air of joyful merriment that manages to permeate the audience, with all attendees chuckling along for the majority of the show. This may also be due to the ever flowing wine and drinks that are available throughout – with an option to BYO if anyone so chooses.
While the script stays true to the original writings of Shakespeare, there are a few modernised elements brought in that can be picked up throughout – mainly in musical form. A rousing rendition of twelve days of Christmas opens the show, with thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of the classic Irish melody ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ occurring. Which, surprisingly, really brought the show together.
As with many of The Australian Shakespeare Company’s productions, they have successfully created a whimsical experience for any attending. Spending the night with a glass of wine, a blanket and the words of the bard, while a gentle rain mists down under the stars, is truly an experience.
Twelfth Night is showing at the Royal Botanic Gardens until 29th February. Tickets are available here.