What You Will

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2011

reviews

Rhiannon Kelly

at 14:02 on 17th Aug 2011

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Transposing Shakespeare into a musical is setting yourself up for a challenge. How do you successfully merge a play that has been scrutinised by academics for centuries with a genre that is most noted for jazz hands and cheesy grins? Obviously Shrewsbury school has the answer. In their superbly slick musical version of ‘Twelfth Night’, these kids show us that Shakespeare can be reinvented.

The musical numbers were delivered with energy and gusto, the group numbers were especially fun, and I particularly enjoyed it when the entire cast burst on stage, sending a ripple of excitement across the theatre. Despite the liveliness of the production as a whole, the individual performers depicted their roles with grace and sophistication, which prevented the performance from descending into melodrama and helped bring out the tender themes of love and longing at the heart of the play. The music was fantastically written, maintaining the perfect balance of theatrical vigour and tender sincerity. John Moore writes the score especially for the individual performers, so each song brings out the best in every character’s voice, and every note is pitch perfect. The duet between Olivia (Marianne Shawe-Taylor) and Cesario (Izzy Osborne) as they lament their frustrated love is particularly moving, the girls’ voices complimenting each other beautifully. Izzy Osborne has a quiet grace about her, and her solos are understated and heartfelt. It was initially strange to hear Shakespeare’s verse in song, but once I got used to what they were doing, it really, really worked.

Malvolio, the self-righteous servant to Olivia (who has always been my favourite character in the play) is played with fantastic zeal by Sam Ansloos. He depicted Malvolio’s haughty self-importance with such flair; I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he strode, skipped and stomped around the stage. The servant sub-plot was comically presented, and I had a lot of fun watching the events unfold. Hebe Dickins was a strong Maria, and her confident self-assurance immediately engaged attention. The production is brilliantly choreographed; the group dance sequences are enjoyable and polished, and the scene changes are seamless, making for a fast-paced and easy to follow production.

‘What You Will’ is a bundle of fun, and it is astounding to see so many talented young people tackle something so ambitious. The cast are clearly having fun, and so are we. Whoever thought that jazz hands and cheesy grins could actually augment a Shakespeare production? If music be the food of love, Shrewsbury School - play on!

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Harriet Baker

at 18:23 on 17th Aug 2011

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Once in full swing, this production is really excellent. It is a great show, impressively delivered and highly original. If you thought Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ could never be created as a musical (including jazz hands), please go along for a pleasant surprise.

The show opens as a storm throws up a ship onto the shores of Illyria, from which Viola (played wonderfully by Izzy Osbourne) emerges, to be disguised in male guise as Cesario, from which love and theatrical madness stems. She falls in love with Orsino (Rob Collins), who is in love with Olivia, (Marianne Shawe-Taylor) who falls in love with Cesario / Viola. It is brilliantly done; Olivia beautiful and remote, Orsino doting and passionate, whilst Malvolio (Olivia’s steward) attempts to woo his mistress on false assumptions. Sam Ansloos’ performance of Malvolio deserves particular mention; he is bizarre and brilliant, fooled into thinking he can win Olivia by wearing his “kinky boots”. He emerges in full punk dress, spiked hair and chains. It is absolutely hilarious.

The music is excellent, written specifically for the different voices by John Moore. Whilst some of the harmonies are a little dull, there are moments of real beauty. The scenes in which Izzy Osbourne and Marianne Shawe-Taylor duet are wonderful. Gus Haynes as Antonio is sincere and faultless, and his vocal performance is possibly the best of the piece.

Whilst it took a little while for the voices and the show to warm up and gather pace, I found myself in its full swing towards the end. The play is perfectly paced and strides evenly along, the music punctuated by monologues and verse. The scenes of revealed identities, reconciliations and love expressed in the show’s closing moments, conclude what is a colourful and brilliant production.

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