Open Bar Theatre are the sister company to Open Book founded in 2013 by Nicky Diss, Vicky Gaskin and Ellie Cope. While Open Book presents wonderful and magical interpretations of children’s literary classics in library’s, Open Bar presents bawdy and accessible Shakespeare in pub gardens – possibly one of the best staging ideas for a bawdy Shakespeare comedy there is.
There is something so delicious, so authentic about touring Shakespeare companies. The audience are given a more visceral experience, one that I can only imagine, is closer to what Shakespeare himself intended. Open Bar are no exception, their interpretation of ‘Twelfth Night’ was full of gumption, pace and enthusiasm.
Choosing to set the piece within ‘Illyria Folk festival’, the six actors multi-role their way through the characters, skilfully making each of them entirely distinct. The twins are played by Vicky Gaskin (who is both earnest and effervescent as Viola), and Ben Galpin. The latter also take on the role of the miserable and incredibly comedic Malvolio, his facial contortions are a joy to behold. Nick Wood-Jones plays the sea captain and also a brilliant Sir Toby Belch. So realistic seems his ‘wassailing’ that you can almost smell the mead on him! Annie Gregson takes on the roles of Maria and Olivia, seamlessly switching between and finding a contrasting comedic element to both women. Darrel Bailey plays the cool and confident Orsino, but it is with Andrew Aguecheek that he really shines, creating the perfect comedic partner to Sir Toby.
Charlotte Worthing plays Antonia and is a riot as Feste, Worthing’s physical comedy as as the ‘fool’ is incredibly well judged and the audience were in stitches when Feste pretends to be an ‘evangelical’ Sir Topas.
There was the occasional dropped line and costume mishaps, (and for a time a lingering helicopter) but the cast dealt with these with both dexterity and aplomb, only serving to increase the laughs. Giving the audience the feeling that they too were in on the joke.
The piece was expertly directed by Nicky Diss, no stranger to Shakespeare and her enthusiasm and expertise for his work shines through.
The standing ovation the cast received at the end was well and truly deserved.
Reviewed by Byron Butler
Twelfth Night is playing at various Fullers Pubs until September, further details can be found here