Twelfth Night richly re-imagined at Chichester Festival Theatre

Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, until January 26

Now here’s a refreshing take on Shakespeare, a take that accepts that you don’t need every single line, exit or messenger. Or indeed character.

Artistic director Kelly Hunter instead gives us a version which takes us right to the essence of Shakespeare’s play. The result is a playful, energetic delight which runs straight through.

It would be wrong to think of it as a highlights package, but certainly plenty of the baggage has been jettisoned. It’s not a version which will be to everyone’s liking, but nor, quite frankly, is the original.

And if the reward for boldness is something bright and sparkling, then the sacrifices along the way are more than worth it.

In truth, it’s just a little bit difficult to get into at first – especially after a long day at work, when your senses might not attune quite so quickly to the bizarre world Hunter and her cast are leading us into.

But you get there soon enough, thanks largely to the beautiful fluency of the cast who bring crystal clarity to their lines; thanks also to the life they bring to them. Seven actors, including artistic associates Tom Chapman, Finlay Cormack and Paula Rodriguez, work wonderfully well together, all of them accomplished musicians too.

Best of all, the music never seems an artful add-on. It flows seamlessly from the text and lets it soar.

This isn’t Shakespeare light; it’s Shakespeare vigorously, richly reimagined. And you sense that the Bard would be smiling too.

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