East London Shakespeare Festival’s Twelfth Night offers up an 80s-themed rendition of the classic comedy, touring across parks in East London this summer. Promised fun for the whole family, ELSF deliver a memorable and community-centred experience that highlights local talent.
Paul Carroll, Ursula Early (c) Dixon.
Armed with my picnic, and sitting alongside many other families, I was lucky enough to watch the production at the very beautiful Fellowship Square in Walthamstow. This production makes excellent use of the square’s iconic piazza fountain – though the striking of the town hall clock seemed to unsettle a few of the performers – lending a great atmosphere to the show. The open-air setting and lively incorporation of 80s music and costumes, give this production an approachable quality that is both charming and heartfelt.
Standout performances come from Arysha Kelly, who makes her professional debut in fine form as Viola, and Paul Carroll, who really shines as Feste/Antonio. There are certainly a few performances that could benefit from the adage ‘less is more’, but it hardly matters when everyone is having this much fun. A very good sport from the audience is enrolled in the show as a Father to marry our confused couples at the end – normally, audience participation really makes me worry, but it’s handled very nicely here. It’s hard for anyone not to smile throughout the entire show, and I am always delighted to see young children engaged and excited by Shakespeare.
This is truly local, community-led theatre-making, as ELSF are offering pay-what-you-can performances, reduced prices on matinees for local schools, workshops, and more. It feels authentic to what Shakespeare was always about – entertainment for anyone and everyone.
I would only note to families that the running time is stated as 105 minutes but was almost 30 minutes longer than that (not including the interval), which is worth bearing in mind if you are worried about restless little ones. Regardless, the performances will travel across Waltham Forest, Hackney and Redbridge, and I encourage anyone looking for an affordable, upbeat evening out to support this charming team of performers and theatre-makers. It is solid entertainment that will leave you in a good mood.
Review by Christina Care
Transforming areas across Hackney, Waltham Forest and Redbridge into the world of Illyria, ELSF merges the contemporary culture of East London with the inspirational storytelling of Shakespeare’s plays in outdoor parks and community spaces across the area. Twelfth Night gives local residents a memorable and unique experience of Shakespeare’s much-loved classic tale, with a festival vibe and featuring a community ensemble of local residents at the Waltham Forest venues.
Director Scott Le Crass
Designer George Alexander
Movement Director Julia Cave
Original Music Amir Shoenfeld
Producers Ursula Early & Rosie Ward
Cast Paul Carroll (he/him)
Aaron Douglas (he/him)
Ursula Early (she/her)
Philip Honeywell (he/him)
Arysha Kelly (she/her)
Hassan Maarfi (he/him)
Kate Thomson Rahmanian (she/her)
Alasdair Saksena (he/him)
Francesca (Frankie) Alemitu Bertoletti (they/them
Shakespeare Festival’s Twelfth Night
Touring East London parks from 16th June – 7th August 2022
Press Performance: Friday 24th June – Fellowship Square, Waltham Forest, E17 4JF