Shakespeare with water pistols? Just one of the many inventive elements of the brilliant Twelfth Night Reimagined for Ages 6 and Over playing at Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park.
As a family theatre reviewer, I’ve sat in quite a few productions where you get water sprayed or shot at you and the audience ducks and squeals. But at the Open Air Theatre, the water guns were welcomed with open arms (and mouths) — I think mostly because we’d already been rained on for the past hour or more!
That’s right, don’t forget to pack your raincoats, hoods or any other covering for — as we were told gleefully later — unless the actors at Open Air Theatre are in mortal danger, the show will go on, hail or thunder.
So there we sat as the heavens opened (not too badly though) and hardly anybody seemed fazed, mainly because we were so caught up in the action on stage.
This is an absolutely fantastic version of one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies. The dialogue is pure Shakespearean poetry (with a few 21st century jokes thrown in), but the pacing is so lively that even my 5-year-old sat hooked throughout.
You probably know the story: twins Viola and Sebastian survive a shipwreck, but each believes the other to have died at sea. Finding herself in a strange land, Viola disguises herself as a boy Cesario, and gets a job as manservant to the Duke Orsino with whom she soon falls in love.
The only problem is that Orsino’s mad for Olivia who, comically, finds herself drawn to Cesario (Viola in disguise, keep up!). In typical Shakespearean fashion, there’s a villain who’s mean enough to boo and hiss at (Malvolio), a Fool, and clownish characters in Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the drunken Sir Toby Belch. And of course it all gets madder than Malvolio in yellow tights when Sebastian shows up alive and is mistaken for Cesario (Viola).
What’s really fun about this production is that most of the leads play two roles, taking the cases of mistaken identity to a ridiculous level. Each member of the cast brings something extra to the show and I was really impressed by the quality of singing and musicianship (they all seem to play multiple instruments).
In the press party afterwards, we met Sarah Ridgeway who played Viola and I also got chatting with cast and crew members from upcoming shows — an assistant choreographer for Porgy and Bess, and two of the cast from To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s lovely to see how they come out to watch each other’s shows.
My very first experience of the Open Air Theatre was when I was not much older than Ezra, going to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream with my mum and older sister. I remember deckchairs and a picnic and being swept away by Shakespeare’s drama, even though I couldn’t follow the dialogue completely.
Shakespeare’s writing is nothing short of magic and it was such a joy to share it with my kids.
Whatever the weather, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is a real treat and Twelfth Night Reimagined is a must for your summer calendar.
Twelfth Night Reimagined for Ages 6 and Over at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle Regent’s Park, NW1 4NU (Baker St tube). Shows at 1.30pm (Fri, Tue, Wed); 9.45am (Sat), 10am & 1.30pm (Sun); £15/family of 4 £50 (until Jul 12)