Theatre review - Twelfth Night, Thwaites Empire Theatre

Twelfth Night – Blackburn Drama Club – Thwaites Empire Theatre

Twelfth Night – Blackburn Drama Club – Thwaites Empire Theatre - Credit: Archant

Rob Gemmell goes along to see the Blackburn Drama Club production of Twelfth Night at the Thwaites Empire Theatre

William Shakespeare is possibly the world’s most famous playwright. His plays have graced stages at theatres all over the world. His works have been translated into 80 different languages as his legacy lives on long after his death.

Twelfth Night is a comedy, a black comedy at times, but a comedy none the less. It tells the story of love, loss, mistaken identity and betrayal with reflection on an often dark background with bursts of light breaking through with some of his funniest lines written.

The story is a conveyor belt of different scenarios centred around a brother and sister who are lost at sea and they assume each other drowned. The sister, Viola, takes refuge on the island of Illyria where she poses as a member of the opposite sex under the guise of Cesario, who works for, and subsequently falls in love with the duke, Orsino. Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia whose feelings sadly don’t reflect those of the duke and when Cesario delivers her a message, Olivia falls for him. Meanwhile, the mischievous trio of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria try to set up an elaborate plot allowing Lady Olivia’s pompous steward, Malvolio, into thinking she has feelings for him. In-between all of these twisting situations is Lady Olivia’s fool, Feste, who weaves everything together with his own mischievous presence.

Having only previously performed shorter versions of Shakespeare’s work, this is the first time the club have attempted to put on one of his plays in full. It is a very bold and very brave move for an amateur dramatics group to even attempt to perform the works of Shakespeare and Blackburn Drama Club, with this performance, have absolutely nailed it. The abilities of some of the group’s members were truly phenomenal and it has enabled the group to raise the bar in terms of acting standards.

The three tier set split the action between the different locations and once again it was created to truly professional standards. Director Anita Shaw admits she had a tough job on her hands and it has taken a lot of hard work and determination from all, but she has produced one of the most memorable plays that the Thwaites Empire in Blackburn has ever witnessed.

Some of the lead cast produced very accomplished performances notably from Ayub Patel as Orsino, Anne-Marie Flood as Lady Olivia, Robert Talbot as Malvolio, Elliott McNulty as Sebastian, Catherine Strickland as Viola and Martyn Pugh as Feste. Special mentions need to be made to the simply superb trio of Clive Stack, Steven Derbyshire and Sarah Nolan as Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Maria respectively produced some of the best acting performances I have ever witnessed at this level.

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The work of Shakespeare is not easy and it takes a collection of skilled performances to be able to pull it off and allow the story to flow. Anita Shaw has worked wonders with a fine ensemble and the hard work and additional rehearsal times to ensure the performance was to perfection has paid off.

Every time I see Blackburn Drama Club they get better and better. They are always challenging themselves with often difficult choices of plays, but in doing so they showcase their incredible talent and have raised the profile of amateur theatre in the North West.

The play continues up to and including Saturday 3rd October at 7:30pm. To book tickets visit the website at