Scena Mundi - Twelfth Night_4 © Jessy Boon Cowler
photo by Jessy Boon Cowler

For those who wish to escape the present time and return to the Elizabethan era, Scena Mundi Theatre Company’s performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the French Protestant Church is not to be missed. Wonderfully directed by Cecilia Dorland, combining humor, lavish costumes and the bewitching language of Shakespeare in an original venue, the evening promises to be a lovely escape from reality. Traditional music of the époque plays as the spectators walk in, allowing them to get accustomed with the tone of the piece.

It needs to be stressed that using the church as the location of the performance adds to the overall production beautifully. The strong acoustics of the high ceilings makes it easy for those in the back to hear the actors. The beauty of the architecture makes Shakespeare come to life on an even better visual level. Because of this, the use of accessories or props is minimal because they are not needed: because the play takes place in the church too much more on stage would have overpowered the actors.

While this interpretation of Shakespeare is quite traditional, there are elements bringing in a more contemporary approach to the director’s choices. In the opening scene, there are flashing lights and contemporary dance music comes on with the actors in traditional dress. The choice of attire for certain characters brings in little elements of more contemporary dress, such as round sunglasses or slightly sequined trousers worn by Feste, played by Edward Fisher. This clash of centuries is not unsuccessful because it is not done too often. It brings an element of originality to a performance that could have been too stuck in Shakespeare’s time.

The quality of the acting is superb. Each performer masters their facial expression and stage expression, making it evermore entertaining for the audience to watch. In particular Martin Prest, playing many different parts, keeps everyone smiling each time he sets foot on stage. He metamorphoses from one character to the next in a fantastic way thanks to his different facial expressions and body language. With that in mind, the entire company is worth a mention, as each brings their own part to the play. While it is no one’s fault, it needs to be mentioned that Twelfth Night is a rather long play. There were a couple of scenes that dragged on a little, but it is difficult to turn Shakespeare’s work into a shorter play.

Until April 9th at the French Protestant Church, an Elizabethan night filled with laughs and beautiful costumes is a must for those with a vivid love for Shakespearian theatre.