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A night out with Twelfth Night in the gardens this summer

BY Keshia Hutchens, Fuller PR | 24-Dec-2016
Well-loved purveyor of enthralling outdoor theatre, the Australian Shakespeare Company (ASC) returns this summer with a new production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest comic masterpieces, Twelfth Night.
From 20 December 2016 - 4 March 2017, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens will be treated to evenings full of larger-than-life characters interacting with picnicking audiences as they play out a tale of riotous festivities, unrequited love, cross-dressing, misguided advances and all manners of adventure. Tickets are on sale now from shakespeareaustralia.com.au.

Director Glenn Elston is fascinated by the character archetypes in Twelfth Night, which provides one of the first representations of core personality types such as the party animal, the fool, the flawed puritan, and remains one of the most memorable today.

“Our Twelfth Night will heighten Shakespeare’s iconic characters with stylized pop culture references and loud production design, set amid a wild world that transcends time and space. Shakespeare was the original extremist, and we’re taking his approach using all the materials available today,” says Elston.

Making her debut with the Australian Shakespeare Company is Elizabeth Brennan in the lead role of Voila, the girl who falls down the rabbit hole into the mythical world of Illyria and disguises herself as a boy to win favor with the Duke.

“I’ve always been excited by Shakespeare in a way that is a bit nerdy, partly because the characters are so complex and fascinating while still being universal. The heightened language has always appealed to me too, and the passion and emotion that’s in every play. Viola is one of the most enterprising females in all of Shakespeare, so I really can’t wait to play her!” says Elizabeth.

The complex character that is Malvolio, a power hungry puritan who falls from his great moral height, will be realised by Hugh Sexton, who celebrates 10 consecutive years performing Shakespeare in the Royal Botanic Gardens this summer. Hugh is relishing the challenge of playing Malvolio, a much-coveted role performed by the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart and Stephen Fry.

“Sure he’s a villain. But he’s a villain with feeling. He’s flawed…ambitious, arrogant, condescending, and socially inept. But he secretly, desperately wants love! Yet his very own flaws deny him that. That’s what I love about Malvolio. He desperately wants something he will never be able to find. But he will never know that,” says Hugh.

The powerfully voiced Charlie Sturgeon will play the love struck Duke Orsino, while musical theatre star Mark Dickinson will play Feste, performing many of the raucous and festive songs in the play.

Returning to the ASC stage, the captivating Claire Nicholls will take on the mischievous role of Maria, the housemaid who outwits Malvolio and housetrains Sir Toby. Syd Zygier will be making her debut on the ASC stage as the grieving Olivia.

The colourful cast of characters also includes the man believed to have invented partying, Sir Toby Belch, performed by ASC veteran Kevin Hopkins, the silly Sir Andrew Aguecheek played the hilarious Anthony Rive (watch out before he eats your celery sticks), and young newcomer James Coley as Viola’s twin brother Sebastian. Louisa Fitzhardinge (As You Like It) will play the male role of Fabian, turning some of the cross dressing in the play into reality, and turning the Elizabethan tradition of men playing women on it’s head. Newcomer Bryony Hindley performs Antonia (formerly known as Antonio) the seafaring pirate who saves Sebastian from drowning, and goes on to cause great mayhem by mistaking Viola for Sebastian.

The City of Melbourne has commended Glenn Elston with a Melbourne Award in 2014 for his contribution to Melbourne’s profile. The Australian Shakespeare Company continues on its mission to make theatre accessible to the wider community.

Every summer Melbourne’s iconic Royal Botanic Gardens are a hive of activity with thousands of Melburnians, Victorians, national and international visitors enjoying Glenn Elston’s Shakespeare Under the Stars and family favourite The Wind in the Willows, celebrating 30 years this summer. The company also presents an interactive show for preschoolers, Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies, which has just completed a sold out tour to London’s Kew Gardens.

Since its inception, the company has played to over a million people nationally with critically acclaimed annual summer seasons, indoor shows, concerts, plays and indigenous festivals.