This year, Singapore Repertory Theatre’s (SRT) annual offering under its Shakespeare in the Park series was Twelfth Night, which ran from 25th April to 20th May at the Fort Canning Park.
Twelfth Night is a comedy of mistaken identity, as the story starts with Viola (Rebecca Spykerman) losing her twin brother in a storm that wrecks the ship they both are on. Stranded on Illyria, Viola takes on the identity of a man, calls herself Cesario, and enters the services of Duke Orsino (Shane Mardjuki), who’s meanwhile in love with Olivia (Seong Hui Xuan). Olivia in return falls for Cesario, not knowing it’s Viola in disguise.
In a sub-plot, Malvolio (Daniel Jenkins), Olivia’s arrogant steward, gets hoaxed by Sir Toby (Neil McCaul), Sir Andrew (Andy Tear), and Maria (Vicky Williamson), and is egged on at various times by Fabian (Tan Shou Chen) and Feste (Adrian Pang) in an attempt to make Malvolio think Olivia is in love with him instead.
As one of Shakespeare's lighter comedies, Twelfth Night was the perfect choice for this outdoor night performance, as the play was easy enough even for the uninitiated to comprehend, and yet had a myriad of connotations and symbolism for the literature buffs to enjoy as well.
The production was superbly directed by Bruce Guthrie (Associate Director for Richard III with Kevin Spacey in 2011). Most of the actors excelled in delivering their Ol’ English lines in such a manner as to capture the pathos of Shakespeare’s words. Also, Guthrie interjected such layers into the role of Feste that it made this production of Twelfth Night very accessible, as the audience immediately identified with the comedic Feste’s antics scattered throughout the play.
The story was set in the 1930s. Robin Don’s mesmerizing island set consisted of a raked stage, a yacht, a beach bar, sand, and water, including a neoclassical manor complete with iron gates and a water feature. Andrzej Goulding’s projection of the sea as a backdrop but appearing as if it was upstage was very convincing and worked with the rest of the set to create an illusion that we were actually at a beach town overlooking its residents. As the sun began to set across Fort Canning Park, and dusk set in, even the random swooping birds assimilated with the set and contributed to this wondrous illusion. And at the end of the play, Goulding even made a moon appear as the couples danced in the moonlight.