Review By Tess Bourguignon
A very tumultuous Blue Mountains storm earlier in the day was setting the stage for what could have been a great production of “The Tempest”. Luckily for Sport for Jove the heavy rain and thunderstorms made way for a clear and perfect evening for their production of The Twelfth Night which received much laughter and applause from the audience throughout the summer night.
The play follows Viola, a sister separated from her twin brother during a shipwreck as she disguises herself as a man in order to survive. Cue the comedy as much confusion, misdirection and mistaken love ensues.
While admittedly not the most Shakespeare savvy theatre-goer there is, I thoroughly enjoyed this comedic play that was very well directed and performed beautifully by the entire cast. The delightfully comedic Septimus Caton (Sir Toby Belch) and James Haxby (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) served as a wonderful and hilarious pair, with Jay James-Moody (Feste) only adding more laughter as he played the omnipresent Fool. Lexi Sekuless made for a terrific Malvolio/a and gained very deserving laughter from the audience, her nasal ‘vocal fry’ made a comedic juxtaposition to the shakespearean english, but was inconsistent in the second act.
Director Christopher Stollery is to be commended for the wonderful audience interaction and moments of the play that happened around us that were highly entertaining. The contemporary additions and references in the script and music were very skillfully made and added to the everyday-audience members understanding and enjoyment.
Unlike other recent Shakespeare productions, it was encouraging to see female actors playing female roles, in addition to the gender-swapped characters bringing the cast to a 50/50 gender split. Perhaps my one gripe with the production was that while the costumes were beautiful and entertaining, some of them led to confusion over which gender certain characters were portraying. While I appreciate gender being portrayed more fluidly on the stage, I feel it was critical for audiences not readily familiar with this play to be able to easily identify the gender of characters as this was vital to the comedy of the performance.
Their technical set up is to be well noted, especially to whomever was responsible for the productions sound design, their practical radio prop was lovely and the choice of songs - whether played from speakers, sung and played by actors or written by composer duo Naomi and Drew Livingston - were memorable and very well positioned.
Sport For Joves staging in the beautiful Everglades gardens was a definite highlight and makes for a very special and unique night of theatre. The team made clever use of the tiered hedges as “wings”, as well as a number of other garden walls, staircases and paths as grand and surprising entrances. There was something incredibly intimate and engaging about being seated in such a small and beautiful outdoor space, the breathtaking views of the Jamison Valley on the audiences right and the beautiful gardens which set the backdrop of the production. The outdoor quality lended a very ephemeral quality as the hum of cicadas crescendoed and diminished, the Kookaburras seemingly gaining a great sense of comedic timing to laugh forebodingly in serious moments or chime in with the audience's laughter, and even the weather bringing a light mist and smell of rain as the cast ended the play singing “and it will rain everyday.”
After recent bushfires greatly affecting visitation of the Blue Mountains, it’s heartwarming to see both audiences and independent theatre continue to celebrate and showcase our natural environment. Having seen last years season it’s equally great to see that Sport For Joves already high quality productions improve with time.
Whilst the Leura Everglades staging has sadly come to an end, their 2020 season of The Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet will be touring to Old Gov. House at Parramatta Park for all of February. I recommend that you also pack a picnic, a glass of wine and a jacket as you make your way to see one of these productions.
Images Credit to Tess Bourguignon - Reviewer
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.