Twelfth Night at the Abbey Theatre is accessible and exceptional

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night - Credit: Archant

With Shakespeare being performed everywhere and anywhere in this year of the 400th anniversary of his death, it is not surprising that drama groups are casting around for something different.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night - Credit: Archant

To that end the Company of Ten, currently performing Twelfth Night at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans, has opted for an all-female cast - perhaps because in Shakespeare’s day, women were not allowed to perform on stage and female roles were taken by men or boys.

But in line with the decision to set the play during the Isle of Wight Festival, the times they are a’changing and increasingly women are taking the key male parts in Shakespeare’s plays.

What is still unusual is for the entire cast to be women and I confess I was slightly sceptical about how it would work.

But in actual fact, this is one of the most accessible versions of Twelfth Night I have seen and it did not suffer one jot from the absence of men.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night - Credit: Archant

In fact the women in the key roles were uniformly excellent and in one particular case, Naomi Jamboretz as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, brought something really fresh and hilarious to the role.

Twelfth Night, with its Shakespeare staples of a shipwreck, characters in disguise and mistaken identity, needs a light touch to prevent it dragging, particularly at the end when all is revealed.

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It is to director Derek Coe’s credit that he achieves that and succeeds in bringing out the comic aspects of the play as much as possible.

That is why Naomi as the foolish Sir Andrew dominates every scene in which she appears. aided and abetted by a suitably inebriated Sir Toby Belch, played by a rollicking Helen Huson.

Running the comic duo close is Alessia Procaccini as Malvolio - an excellent performance as the pompous steward to the lovely Olivia, played by Beccy Baird. The scene with the famous yellow stockings is a hoot and whoever thought up the idea of dressing Alessia as a morris dancer deserves to take a bow.

Jill Priest with her exquisite singing voice makes a delightful Feste the clown and I particularly liked Chloe Brown’s performance as Viola who spends most of the production disguised as Cesario.

Twelfth Night runs until Saturday and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or online.