Co-Directors Becky Latcham and Esalan Gates introduce Sixth Side Theatre’s Epiphany Show, Twelfth Night.
Bamboo instead of a box tree, a woman playing the sleazy Sir Toby, and twins who have only three full-functioning arms between them. This production really leans into the fact that Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most complex comedies.
Twelfth Night (or What You Will) is a fairly dark comedy and yet we have managed to coax out every ridiculous moment that lurks beneath the surface of the text. After all, crying with laughter at something that makes you think twice about why you’re laughing at it can be far more provoking than confronting tragedy head-on. We have set this production in the era of the 1920s, drawing on the aesthetic of The Great Gatsby for the atmosphere of celebration and festivities that would pervade the twelfth night of Christmas. The flip side of this, as with the darker underbelly of Twelfth Night, is that the 1920s was a time of social upheaval and a revival of the sense that we might as well do what we will. As we have just entered the 2020s, there is something current and relatable about the idea that the world has been turned upside down, as we reassess social values that we have been more comfortable with and oblivious to in the past.
The cast are chaotic (and the first cast I’ve worked with who are too trusting of one another during trust fall exercises). They are always more than willing to push themselves, throwing themselves across the stage and exaggerating every aspect of their characters as much as they are physically able. It has been the highlight of my day watching these incredibly talented actors fool around for a few hours every evening.
Comedies are rare in DST. I’m grateful I got to be a part of this one.
Directing this production will be my third encounter with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but my first experience of ever directing a show at all. And I’m very glad that it was Twelfth Night; although his tragedies are more well-known, Shakespeare’s impeccable wordplay, puns, and wit are just as effective in a world-turned-upside-down. These things are what, in part, drew me to the play. However, I was also drawn in by the subtle care paid to questions of gender, fairness, and love. The central character, Viola (who finds herself split between man and woman in both identity and pursuit) experiences moments of intense self-reflection that momentarily break up the whirlwind comedy of the show.
My first experience of directing a show could not have been blessed with a better cast to work with. Each person brings something different and hilarious to rehearsal, and they play their roles with equal parts ridiculousness and nuance. I’m so happy that my first show has been such an amazing experience, where we get to have fun doing what we love at rehearsals, from chaotic warm-up exercises to blocking a scene of drunken dancing. Having a co-director has brought another hugely helpful voice who often notices the moments I miss and offers new direction perfect for a scene.
I decided to set the show within a 1920s aesthetic because the gold, glitz, and glamour fits the festival setting of the play with a more modern twist. The plot concerns the whims of the rich and the exaggerated romance builds on this. I wanted to dress everyone in a cohesive look (mostly black tie, with individual flair) to create the sense of a close gathering and connection between all, whether good or bad. The lady’s maid can prank the butler, and the lady herself can witness the fallout, helped along by the ever-present jester. And the particularly wonderful thing about Twelfth Night is that yellow stockings are shocking when paired with any outfit.
Twelfth Night will be performed in the Dowrick Suite, Trevelyan College, from 28th February to 1st March.