Theatre Review







Open Air Theatre Regents Park

Twelfth Night  



Photo by Alistair Muir

By William Shakespeare


Director: Edward Dick

Set Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins

Costume Designer: Fotini Dimou

Lighting Designer: Simon Mills


June 4 – July 30, 2008






A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Twelfth Night was the first play ever staged at the Open Air Theatre in 1932, and on its return director Edward Dick creates, with an engaging and skillful cast, a visually captivating and hugely entertaining piece of theatre.

During a violent ship wreck a young girl, Viola, is separated from her twin brother Sebastian. She is washed up on the coast of the strange land of Illyria, and assuming her brother to be dead, she disguises herself as a man, Cesario, and becomes a valued member of the court of Duke Orsino. The Duke is in love with the lady Olivia, who spurns his advances, and Cesario is instructed to woo Olivia on behalf of the Duke. Olivia begins to fall in love with Cesario, who in turn falls in love with Orsino. Also in love with Olivia is Malvolio, her steward, and these love stories unfold in interesting ways in the play.

This is a boisterous, energetic production which opens dramatically with the sea coast scene, bursting upon the audience with a clap of thunder, and the pace is set.
The cast did full justice to this play, finding the finely drawn line between outrageous comedy and more serious commentary. Sir Toby Belch (Tim Woodward), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Clive Hayward) and their cronies kept the pace of the play upbeat and they carried us effortlessly along with their ridiculous antics and jousting wordplay. Orsino too (Oscar Pearce) added his own particular twist of humour, but the two comic stars of the play for me were Clive Rowe as Feste and Richard O’Callaghan as Malvolio. Both were excellent, with immaculate comic timing, and far from coming across as merely vulgar or ridiculous, they presented us with well thought through characterisations through which a deeper side to them both could be glimpsed.

Malvolio, while being extraordinarily funny in the gulling scene, clearly shows us his more somber, tragically pathetic side at the end of the play and Feste, after being blissfully funny throughout, is also the one to remind us that ‘the whirligig of time brings in his revenges and of the more sobering side of life in his closing song.

The music was excellently done, a mixture of live saxophone and a lovely soundtrack, with Feste performing in a fine singing voice.

Despite its lightheartedness, there was nothing soft or sweet about this production, indeed, I found myself towards the end thoroughly disliking the mean edge conferred by the actors on the characters of Sir Toby and Maria, played with wonderful artfulness by Claire Benedict. What was so successfully conveyed was the outrageousness of the situation and the layers of its consequences, and although it was at times bawdy indeed, it was at no point either crude or silly.

The mixture of a magical and fantastical quality to this production was greatly enhanced by the beautifully considered costumes (Fotini Dimou) and of course, the surround of trees, fading light, the call of birds from the ‘real world’ of the park in which we sat.

With an edge of chill in the air to keep the mind alert, a glass of mulled wine to warm the hands, the fabulous setting of Regent’s Park to whisk one away to a delightful other world, and a play which contains some of Shakespeare’s loveliest verse to delight in every way, who could ask for more?




Photo by Alistair Muir


Performance times and dates on the website  

Running time: approx. 2 hours 45 minutes, including an interval

There will be signed performances of Twelfth Night on Wednesday 2 July at 2.30pm (followed by an After Show Talk) at 8pm.

Tickets: £10 to £ 40

Please note the new Box Office number is 0844 826 4242
(9am – 8pm Mon – Fri, 10am – 5pm Sat & Sun)

Open Air Theatre
Inner Circle
Regents Park
London NW1 4NR






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