Twelfth Night Review

ATYP’s reviewing program was created to give young people a platform to voice their opinions and experiences while developing skills in critical reflection. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of ATYP or its staff.


Twelfth Night is a play written by William Shakespeare around 1601–02, utilising a Shakespearian convention of disguises and mistaken identity. A central plot point of Twelfth Night is the mix-up between twins Viola and Sebastian when they arrive in Illyria following a seemingly ill-fated shipwreck.

Ursula Mills, Tomáš Kantor and Jane Montgomery Griffiths in Twelfth Night, 2023. Photo by Brett Boardman ©

Bell Shakespeare’s touring production re-bent the genders of the aforementioned characters, which may have confused viewers who are unfamiliar with the play. However, key character realisations and plot points executed in this production allowed this directorial decision to succeed. Given Shakespeare’s plays would have featured all-male casts during their time, perhaps re-bending was introduced rather than a new idea, but nonetheless, it was a risk that paid off.

The set design of this production was innovative within the Theatre Royal’s Studio Theatre, with clever use of detachable set pieces in front of a transparent, movable curtain, and lovely greenery shadowed behind. Lighting changes indicated changes in location, mood and focus accurately. The colour palette of mostly greens, reminiscent of the sea and nature, represented the production (also matching the program). My favourite elements were the musical compositions by Sarah Blasko, which folded into the story with great satisfaction.

There were myriad virtuoso performances in this show. The cast played with campiness, musical interludes and slapstick physical comedy, enhancing the joy and humour of Shakespeare’s writing, and underpinning the absurdity of the deceit-filled premise.

Particularly, Jane Montgomery Griffiths magnificently portrayed Malvolia, with delightful shades of comedy and tragedy. Montgomery Griffiths delivered a proper and aloof first impression, later giving the audience permission to laugh and ridicule. This ultimately made the moments of sympathy for Malvolia all the more poignant.

Mike Howlett, Jane Montgomery Griffiths and Amy Hack in Twelfth Night, 2023. Photo by Brett Boardman ©

The professionalism of this production was stellar, with most cast visible during the entire 130-minute performance even whilst ‘off-stage’. The commitment to smooth scene changes and remaining engaged was commendable. Special mention goes to Mike Howlett, who performed the role of Andrew/Captain, whilst also filling in as Orsino due to cast illness. Howlett presented nuance, great energy and confidence in performances.

The denouement evoked conflicting feelings, underscored by the melancholic music performed beautifully by Tomáš Kantor in the role of Feste. Slow dancing was garnished with romantic falling flower petals, as the audience witnessed both unity and looming disorientation; bonds built between characters who never truly knew each other.

Please watch this show if you are looking for a well-produced theatre show that will guarantee many laughs, skilful tricks on a scooter, stealthy hiding, and yellow stockings!


Gabi, 22 [she/her]

Twelfth Night plays at The Theatre Royal from the 26th-30th of September. See details here.