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Watermill Young Company - Twelfth Night

12th to 15th November 2014.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Blown away

The Watermill's young company of actor/musicians pass the Shakespeare challenge with flying colours

The Watermill Young Company: Twelfth Night, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, November 12 to Friday, November 15

Youngsters performing Shakespeare - it can be fraught with difficulties. There is the poetic language, the complex characters and the difficulties of relating the story to a modern-day audience.

There was certainly no need to worry with the exuberant Watermill Young Company's production of Twelfth Night, astutely and inventively directed by Seamus Allen.

This talented group grasped Shakespeare's tale about love, mistaken identity, anarchy and absurd humour with gusto and professionalism in what is a highly-polished hilarious performance.

They followed in the tradition of The Watermill actor/musician concept with the cast playing instruments as well as acting. This was quite a challenge, but realised with relish, adding a new dimension to the play with some fine original songs.

In a magical start to the play that sets the mood, a violent storm hits the boat that the twins Viola and Sebastian are travelling in and they are shipwrecked off the island of Illyria and separated (cue a paper boat being torn up - all great fun).

Chris Baker is outstanding as Feste, with white clown face and red cheeks, which reminded me of the Emcee in Cabaret He has incredible stage presence and wonderful facial expressions.

Viola, a beautifully-controlled performance by Amy Folland, is in love with Orsino, splendidly performed by Tom Fisher, who also played the piano.

The plot does get complicated because he thinks she’s a man called Cesario, although in reality Cesario is actually a woman in disguise. I loved the moustache.

Orsino is actually in love with Olivia, an impressive portrayal by Rebecca Chadder. This is problematic since she has fallen for his servant Cesario and to make matters worse Sebastian (Freddie Parkington) also has a crush on Olivia.

There are some wonderfully comic scenes between Andrew Aguecheek (Mario Jones) - in striped jacket and boater - who also loves Olivia, and Sir Toby Belch (Joseph Lukehurst), as they set out to trick the much-maligned and pompous Malvolio (William Barrett) into wearing yellow cross gartered stockings, in a hilarious scene where he expects to meet Olivia, who he thinks is in love with him.

Chaos prevails as this complex plot is slowly and hilariously unravelled and there is a happy ending.

There is excellent support from Steffan Padel, Catriona Suttie, Jade Wallin, Sam Steele-Childe, Emile Butter and Olivia Snell.

Toots Butcher's innovative set perfectly complements the play and is imaginatively-lit by Pete Maxey.

The company are to be warmly congratulated on this impressive performance and richly deserved the enthusiastic audience applause.