Not a bad start for Kwame Kwei-Armah’s artistic directorship, not bad at all! In fact I would say a spectacular production of this 90 minute musical adaptation of Twelfth NIght, which is co-directed with Oskar Eustis.
It is a big and bright production, Illyria is comes to Portobello Road, bright coloured houses and a pub called Duke of Illyria, a cafe and a paved street make for an impressive set by designer Robert Jones. World flags adorn the street reflecting the rainbow multicultural casting lead by Gabrielle Brooks (Viola) who delivers a standout performance belting out one high octave song after the other. The score is a combination of watered-down R&B and Jazz, the songs are by Shaina Taub with the support of a community chorus, ordinary locals who have joined the professional actors on stage. Kwame does not move far from the original plot but adds an extra exuberant sense of celebration and “carnival”. The comedic timing which falls heavily on Gerard Carey (Malvolio) and Gbemisola Ikumelo (Maria) is spot on, and throughout Kwame’s Twelfth Night is a light-hearted production that mixes laughter and heartbreak, confused gender identity, love and sentiment of a “better world”.
Kwame known to many in the UK as Finlay in Casualty in the 1990’s has freshly returned to the UK after a very successful 7 year theatre directing career in the USA.
At the Young Vic, London, until 17 November.