Shakespeare by the Lakes II: Twelfth Night. By William Shakespeare. Directed by Christopher Stollery. Lakespeare & Co. February 21 to February 24. Various locations and times; admission to most performances is free (see below for details). More information: phone Taimus Werner-Gibbings on 0433 714 201 or visit facebook.com/Lakespeare/.
Lakespeare & Co's premiere production of Shakespeare by the Lakes, Much Ado About Nothing, "far surpassed our expectations," executive producer Taimus Werner-Gibbings says. The four free performances in Canberra and Queanbeyan last year attracted more than 4000 people and received $14,000 in donations from members of the public and $20,000 in corporate sponsorship.
Werner-Gibbings says, "For a simple idea in July 2017, it was a very successful event in February 2018."
Now Lakespeare & Co is back with more. Shakespeare by the Lakes II: Twelfth Night will have more performances, more locations, more times and more funding and sponsorship (though they're still hoping for additional donations).
Duncan Driver, who is co-artistic director of Lakespeare & Co with Lexi Sekuless, says, "Twelfth Night, I think, is one of Shakespeare's best plays, probably his best comedy."
He says the play is highly topical in the 21st century given it can be said to deal with themes such as gender identity, the blurring of erotic love and platonic love, pretence and identity politics.
The play Twelfth Night - "arguably Shakespeare’s most perfect rom-com", Driver says - begins after a shipwreck. The heroine, Viola (played by Sekuless), washes ashore on the coast of Illyria and believes her twin brother Sebastian (Joel Hutchings) to have drowned. She disguises herself as a young man, Cesario, and joins the service of Orsino (Driver), the Duke of the Island, who is in love with the Lady Olivia (Ylaria Rogers). "Cesario" is ordered to woo Olivia on the Duke's behalf. Viola realises she has developed affections for the Duke herself, just as Olivia falls head-over-heels for Viola in her male disguise.
Meanwhile, Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch (PJ Williams) and the squire Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Cameron Thomas), both of whom are loud and hedonistic, hatch a plot with Olivia's servant Maria (Lainie Hart). They conspire to trick the stern, chastising steward Malvolio (Christopher Samuel Carroll) into believing Olivia is in love with him.
The play's full title is Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Some have theorised the second title refers to the play's antics, foolery and crossing of barriers; others have wondered if it was an afterthought, with Shakespeare saying, in effect, "Call it whatever you want, interpret it however you like."
Twelfth Night marks the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, celebrating the day that the magi presented gifts to the newborn Jesus. It marks the end of a period of major celebration and revelry. The production, in association with ACT Historic Places, will premiere at Lanyon Homestead, the only show where admission will be charged. This performance has only 200 tickets available and includes a Q&A hosted by the company's patron, Laura Tchilinguirian, with director Christopher Stollery. He is an actor and director whose credits include being an associate artist with Bell Shakespeare for 15 years, appearing in 19 productions.
Driver says he and Sekuless engaged Stollery to lighten their own load (last year they acted, produced and co-directed), so they could focus more on their performances. They also thought he would bring a fresh perspective and that the cast would benefit from his long experience with Shakespeare's plays on stage.
He and Sekuless learned a lot from their initial venture - instead of being distracted by extraneous matters such as vendors, they are trying to devote their energies to the play itself.
"That's the reason for the event."
Driver says it's early in the rehearsal process and aspects such as costumes and set are still to be worked out but he is happy with the cast of Canberra actors - "a really cohesive and talented group" - and the progress being made.
The National Capital Authority is supporting an afternoon performance on the Patrick White Lawns outside the National Library of Australia and this, Driver says, "I'm most excited about" given the performance will be located next to Lake Burley Griffin for the first time.
The City Renewal Authority is helping with the two Glebe Parks, two in one day: the first at noon and the second at 6pm. There will also be two performances in Tuggeranong Town Park.
As for the future of Shakespeare by the Lakes, Driver hopes it will eventually become self-sustaining and eventually, perhaps, handed on to others. But he seems committed to it for the time being and is already thinking about plays that might be suited to specific locations.
"I like the idea of Henry V at the Australian War Memorial or A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Botanic Gardens," he says.
To book for the paid premiere of Shakespeare by the Lakes II: Twelfth Night at Lanyon Homestead: eventbrite.com.au.
Reserve as many tickets as desired for the free picnic performances as follows:
- Thursday, February 21, Tuggeranong Town Park, 6pm: Tickets at eventbrite.com.au.
- Friday, February 22, Tuggeranong Town Park, 6pm: Tickets at eventbrite.com.au.
- Saturday, February 23, Glebe Park (Canberra City), noon: Tickets at eventbrite.com.au.
- Saturday, February 23, Glebe Park (Canberra City), 6pm: Tickets at eventbrite.com.au.
- Sunday, February 24, Patrick White Lawns (National Library), 4.30pm: Tickets at eventbrite.com.au.