Event review: the spirit of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Project B

By - Friday 9th October, 2015

Hale Man discovers the spirit of Twelfth Night in a new and exciting Croydon venue

Photo by the Breakfast Cats, used with permission.

This is the first time that I have seen a performance by the Breakfast Cats theatre company and also the first time that I have been to Project B in Bell Hill, right in the heart of the town centre, to watch a modern rendition of Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. It’s crazy as I live in Croydon, but have just not had the time to get around and visit all the places that are part of Croydon’s growing art scene. My eagerness to see the performance overriding the fact that I have not written a review before: here goes!

I entered a large room edged with eight brown sofas to find an attentive audience of about thirty people grouped around a central stage with two exits. An orange velvet curtain covered the whole length of the back wall. Project B makes a great setting for those who love to get involved in drama, a cosy and intimate space in which actors get really close to the audience, creating greater dramatic tension and a real sense of involvement. It’s a real asset to Croydon’s thriving cultural scene.

The story is of a love triangle between the three characters – the nobleman Orsino, Lady Olivia, and Viola, a cross-dressing heroine who dresses up as Cesario – but with a stylish twist: the Breakfast Cats company has set the play in the 1920s. Initially I needed to adjust to the use of Shakespearean language but the drama created a rollercoaster of emotions: grief, loss, betrayal, deceit, pity, humour, ridiculousness, anarchy, unrequited love… all cumulating in a happy ending.

It’s when chaos erupts and classes break down that real feelings surface

The cast gave bold and and individually memorable performances. In particular I’d single out David Sanders who played prudish steward Malvolio in his yellow socks, the very humorous Aaron Holmes as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Roberto Prestoni as the drunken uncle, Sir Toby. The performers display a instinctive understanding of one another which allows them to each give their very best to the performance.

The play’s director, Tony Bannister, interestingly sums up Twelfth Night: “It is when chaos erupts, creating power struggles between the vivid characters, and the classes break down, that the real underlying feelings come to the surface”. He clearly wants his version to be accessible to modern audiences and yet true to the original comedy. He identifies the spirit of Twelfth Night with the rising excitement of everything that’s happening in Croydon’s art scene, which is pivotal to the heartbeat of Croydon.

Seeing the actors at the end of an evening of acting, singing and reciting Shakespeare’s script, I sensed their tiredness and my thoughts returned to a discussion I had had earlier in the day. I was talking to an artist from India who was visiting my workshop in the Whitgift Centre about Vipassana, an ancient Indian meditation technique in which you refrain from speaking for ten days. I found myself wondering if a communicator such as Shakespeare, or the actors or I would be able to complete a Vipassana.

Vispassna also means ‘to see things as they really are’. At Project B on Tuesday night I saw a passionate grassroots theatre group from Croydon who are practicing their art form and have created an exciting and modern interpretation of Shakespeare. I hope and believe it’s a sign that things really are getting better, and of future growth for our community.

For tickets for the remainder of the run click and there’s an extra show at the Oval Tavern on Saturday afternoon at 3:15pm. Tickets £10 on the door.

Hale Man

Hale Man

A fine artist, Hale graduated MA degree in Painting for the Royal College of Art. She studied In Hangzhou Academy of Fine Art, and held a China post graduate scholarship to study Chinese Painting. She also holds a PGCE In Post 16 Art Education from IOE, taught art, founded Creative Circles, has worked on complex multi partnership art commissions in London and is currently artist-in-residence at the Whitgift Centre. Hale lives in Croydon with her family and has three children, one with Special Educational Needs. She passionately supports opportunities in art, creativity, education, training and enterprise!

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