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Twelfth Night - Lytham Hall

The sheer excellence of Illyria’s open air performance of Twelfth Night overcame all obstacles on a night of dismal weather at Lytham Hall. Now in their 20th season Illyria’s forte has always been the versatility of a small cast – here just five– and the detailed attention they bring to Shakespeare’s text.

Oliver Gray’s production proceeds at a commendable tempo throughout. The cast, play 22 different characters by means of slick costume changes and a mastery of accents, yet they never skimp or fail to grab the attention by rushing the lines, even in the midst of some manic physical comedy.

Miriam Jay Allwright as Olivia and Emmeline Prior as Viola, both accomplished and experienced actors, speak with exemplary clarity and power. Illyria debutant Lawrence Kemp is especially effective as a slightly camp Sir Andrew and Alastair Chisholm is pleasingly warm-hearted in all his characters, particularly the clown Feste.

Martin Clark gives us a loose-limbed Malvolio who is short of stature and without too much affectedness and who ultimately skillfully excites our sympathy.

The second half in particular is full of comic touches yet avoids slapstick and the production uses music deftly to steady the pace.

The fortitude of the cast and the listeners was commendable on a thoroughly drenching evening and the whooping and hollering of a very respectably-sized audience at the end is testament to just how good Illyria are.