Blackpool Gazette by Di Prutton (June 20th 2007)
Making their eighth successive visit to King Edward and Queen Mary School, the Rain or Shine Theatre Company were driven indoors for the third time. However this did nothing to dampen the energy and liveliness of their production Twelfth Night, with its cross-gender doubling and deft comedy. Carol Singers began the play and the Christmas theme appeared throughout as a linking device, most memorably in the scene where Malvolio (a lugubrious, comically inventive Stephen Glover) find the letter, watched by Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria hiding behind a snowman and some very small bits of Christmas tree. As Toby and Andrew, Nick Earnshaw and Jamie Symons capitalize on their physical differences, making an amusing, occasionally vicious partnership. Susanna Tidy, a bubbly and pert Maria, becomes a touching and convincing Sebastian with a marked resemblance to Viola. Naomi Martin settles happily into the part of Viola/Cesario and is both funny and moving in her scenes with Olivia (an effervescent, engaging Pippa Meekings) and Orsino, played with kindly control by director James Reynard. Her attempts to remember that she is a man keep the audience amused and sympathetic towards her, assuring their appreciation of a happy ending. Feste the clown (Jayne Lloyd) offers another excellent cross-gender performance in a play which is full of disguises and surprises
The Stage by Ian Barge (June 13th 2007)
Rain or Shine’s al fresco production of Twelfth Night gets the Kington Festival off to a scintillating start in Hergest Croft’s glorious gardens. The company’s reputation for exuberant, inventive Shakespeare is well deserved. The choice of a Victorian Christmas scenario seems perversely incongruous, given the aborescent luxuriance of season and setting, but the Illyrian carol singers provide a captivating commentary on the play’s action and title - Stille Nacht, hauntingly sung, is the cue for Orsino’s “If music be …”. It is love that liberates a court frozen in conventional posturing. Only Malvolio remains imprisoned in self-love and vengeful bitterness - so why bring him back on for the final reconciliation scene?
The acting throughout is perceptive and persuasive. James Reynard’s Orsino is no self-indulgent voluptuary - he carries authority with a genuine good grace, making instant sense of Viola’s infatuation. Naomi Martin’s Viola/Cesario is a delight: beautifully spoken, crackling with animation. In contrast , Pippa Meekings sacrifices far too much of Olivia’s gravity and funereal dignity in the interests of frenetic tactility. But what really electrifies this production is the superb trio of reprobates - Nick Earnshaw’s Toby, Susannah Tidy’s Maria and Jamie Symons’ Andrew - exploiting every textual nuance irresistibly, so much so that they (irritatingly, in this case) even upstage Malvolio in the gulling scene. I found Stephen Glover’s Malvolio a touch two-dimensional - he does not quite manage the pathos or the vengeful savagery of Act V. A female Feste is an innovative piece of casting, as is Tidy’s Sebastian. In both cases, breaking the gender mould brought some fascinating insights and fine ironies.
An exhilarating and very intriguing evening. Catch it while you can for some real midsummer madness.