Our first trip to the Hope Theatre in Islington was an all round pleasant affair that started off nicely with a bottle of vino and some fine grub before ascending to the theatre for a night of Shakespeare. We were greeted cordially by the cast who were doubling up as ushers, exhibiting a natural charm, ease and humour when interacting with the audience, and settling us down for the play ahead.
We had never seen Twelfth Night before but we had been told the story by a friend, as it is their favourite Shakespeare. Brushing up is always key with Shakespeare especially when a company decides to do it as a four hander. Yes, four actors playing 14 named characters. We felt this was going to be a bit mad and a bit wild – and indeed it was. Characters jumped into the audience, slunk in between us, and even assigned audience members as characters within the play. These mad antics were coupled with some brilliant original musical moments.
Founding members of Thick as Thieves, Nicky Driss and Thomas Judd have come together with Oliver Lavery and Madeleine MacMahony. All four actors were brilliant and portrayed their many different characters extremely well and drew lots of comedy from the parts. Simple costume changes were used to indicate character changes.
It was a bit overwhelming at times trying to keep up with the character changes in and amongst the Shakespearean verse, especially not knowing the play. For us it was the moments least connected with Shakespeare’s text that seemed to work the best, for example, the off the cuff remarks from Thomas, the whole company’s comical handling of a late arrival and the general humour when interacting with the audience at the start and at half time. In other words the moments when they were free of the text and simply improvising, worked really well, not to mention the wonderful musical moments they added to the play.
Who can knock young actors for wanting to tackle the bard as it is undoubtedly a tremendous learning experience. We just feel maybe next time they should try something brand new and original. They certainly have the talent and ability. Overall however, it was an evening well spent.
Highlight of the show – the improvised moments and of course Malvolio’s yellow crossed garters.
‘Twelfth Night’ by Thick as Thieves is playing at The Hope Theatre in Islington until the 30th April every night except Sundays and Mondays at 7:45pm.