Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Where: The Masque, Muizenberg, 37 Main Road, Muizenberg
When: July 5-15, 2023

Cast: The cast includes Wayne Ronne as Duke Orsino, Tami Schrire as Lady Olivia, Hannah Molyneux as Feste the fool and Kathryn Griffiths as Maria
Director: Barbara Basel
Tickets: Quicket – R100-R120  

Block bookings: E-mail to organise a block booking discount for more than 10 tickets
Venue info: Secure parking available, wheelchair access, cash bar and snacks        

I was bowled over by the Masque Theatre’s July 2023 staging of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Barbara Basel. This production, with crystal clear diction and superb characterisation is one of the best stagings that I have seen of the play. The conceptual arc positions the play in a cabaret club in Weimar Germany. However, this is not over-played or stated.  It renders a gravitas to a play which is often overwhelmed by silliness and wacky theatrics. There is beautiful a capella singing and dance (watch out for the beautiful tango by Wikus Engelbrecht and Catriona Ross). There is much more in this play than the famous line in the opening speech, when the infatuated Orsino, quips: “If music be the food of love, play on.”  Beyond the gender-swapping, disguises, mayhem and fun, Basel riffs off deeper layers within the story and foregrounds the extraordinary writing of the Bard, such as his references to friends, foes, fools and deceit.

I was amazed to hear references to “double-dealing”. I thought that this was a millennial and Gen Z term. There is Shakespeare referring to “double-dealing” in Twelfth Night, which is thought to have been written around about 1601. [] Queen Elizabeth I, is said to have commissioned the play, for the purpose of having it performed as part of her festivities to celebrate the Christian holiday of Twelfth Night- January 5. This is the time to celebrate the Epiphany and considered by some as an opportunity for one last hooray- at the end of the festive season – before knuckling down to work- a space for freedom of expression- when rules and conventions may be subverted. No mention is made to Twelfth Night –the holiday – in Shakespeare’s play.

This production of Twelfth Night is a triumph for community theatre. I detest the tag ”amdram” –amateur dramatics. There is nothing amateur about this production. The entire cast is excellent. Sure, there is some fluffing of lines. There are a lot of lines to remember, so no problem there. I have attended many professional productions, in which I have battled to catch all the words. Watching, or should I say, listening to this production, is a joy as one can hear all the dialogue, clearly.  Check out the pop-up video, where I ask Barbara Basel about the “double-dealing” lines and she talks about watching a production by Kenneth Branagh and musing that Shakespeare couldn’t have possibly written the lines but he did. Basel:

Bravo to Basel and her accomplished cast for nailing this complex play. I was impressed by the entire cast. I loved the John Cleese vibe in Mathew Kingwill’s Malvolio. It is interesting to see that this is the theatre debut for Harmoine Mbunga as Sir Andrew Aguecheek- an outstanding debut performance. Hannah Molyneux has an honours degree in drama from UCT and is a member of the Furies Theatre Troupe and is brilliant as Feste the Fool. Wayne Ronne conjures up a vivid Count Orsino. Tami Schrire is a delight as Countess Olivia (love the costume, by the way). Taryn Basel textures Viola/Cesario with tenderness and subtly, as does Codey Ashton, as Sebastian; without sending up the characters. Veteran actors Thomas Bowman (Antonio) and Andy Rabagliati (Curio/Fabian) are fabulous – voice and presence.  I last saw Yuri Behari-Leak in The Great Gatsby (at the Homecoming Centre for Cape Town Theatre Company) and it is great to see him, delivering another powerful performance as Sir Toby Belch.  Kathryn Smith has numerous qualifications in drama and she delivers an animated and wry Maria. Do not miss this excellent production.

Tango: Wikus Engelbrecht and Catriona Ross in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – Masque Theatre, July 2023. Photo: Faeron Wheeler.

❇ Images supplied. Featured image: Wayne Ronne,Taryn Basel and Hannah Molyneux, in Twelfth Night – Masque Theatre July 2023 Photo: Faeron Wheeler

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