From left: Tom Rooney as Malvolio, Cara Ricketts as Maria, Sara Topham as Olivia, Ben Carlson as Feste, Andrea Runge as Viola, Stephen Ouimette as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch

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The Story
Separated in a shipwreck, twins Viola and Sebastian are washed ashore on different parts of the coast of Illyria, each believing the other to have been drowned. To protect herself in this unknown land, Viola disguises herself as a young man, takes the name Cesario and enters the service of Duke Orsino.

Orsino, pining with unrequited love for the Countess Olivia, employs “Cesario” as his go-between – a task that Viola diligently fulfils, despite her own growing feelings for Orsino. Her position becomes even more awkward when she realizes that Olivia, deceived by her male disguise, has fallen in love with her.

Meanwhile, Olivia’s uncle, the riotous Sir Toby Belch, holds nightly revels with Sir Andrew Aguecheek, another hapless suitor for Olivia’s hand. As a jest, Sir Toby persuades Aguecheek to challenge Cesario to a duel, assuming that each will be too timid to engage the other. He also, along with the maid Maria and the troubadour Feste, plays a practical joke on Malvolio, Olivia’s strict and disapproving household steward. Tricked into thinking Olivia is in love with him, Malvolio makes a fool of himself and they confine him as a madman.

Program notes by Robert Blacker
In Twelfth Night, a drunken Sir Toby reminds us of the twelve days of Christmas when he misquotes the old song, which begins, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me. . . .” Twelfth Night was the last day of the Christmas holidays; the next day people went back to work.

In his earlier comedies Shakespeare sends his lovers into the woods – the forests of As You Like It or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example – where they discover their true selves. In Twelfth Night, Viola and Sebastian set foot on equally magical ground, a holiday state of the mind called Illyria, where parents and affairs of the state do not exist and everyone is beset and infected by love. Although Shakespeare does not literally set his play during Twelfth Night, the spirit of holiday revelry and holiday excess pervades the play. More ... 

Director’s notes by Des McAnuff
So many different cultural and historical influences enrich our lives nowadays that we seldom give them a moment’s thought. We see nothing strange in the idea of enjoying an Indian or Chinese meal (accompanied perhaps by a Spanish or Chilean wine and rounded off with an espresso or an Irish liqueur), followed by, say, a French film adapted from a Russian novel. Yet the same eclecticism we take for granted in our everyday lives can perplex some of us when we encounter it in art.

Eclecticism – the mingling of styles from different periods or different cultures – is one of the defining features of what today we call “postmodernism,” a term associated with the avant-garde. Yet this mode of creative juxtaposition is hardly new; indeed, it is one of the most striking characteristics of Shakespeare’s art.More ... 


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