Twelth Night Re-imagined
Opening at The Questors from 22nd April
Four centuries after William Shakespeare's death a new production of Twelfth Night will point up the play's contemporary resonance by re-imagining its heroine as a refugee.
Stuart Watson, director of the production, which opens at The Questors Theatre in Ealing on 22 April, says: "At the beginning of the play a young woman, Viola, is washed up on an unfamiliar shore. Her beloved twin brother – as she thinks – is lost to the waves when their boat sank. She is distressed, bereaved, alone. She looks up and asks: 'What country is this?' In the light of the European migration crisis that image just screamed 'refugee' to me."
To survive, Viola forges a new identity, as a man, and seeks to assimilate into the strange world of Illyria where lovelorn Duke Orsino strives to win the heart of grieving Countess Olivia.
But, while there is a powerful story of love and loss at its heart, Twelfth Night is a comedy – one of Shakespeare's funniest. Indeed, it is probably best known for its subplot in which an alliance of hangers-on and servants scheme against Olivia's overbearing and puritanical steward, Malvolio. In the famous "gulling" scene they trick him into believing his mistress is in love with him and that he will win her favour by dressing up in yellow stockings and grinning like a madman.
The Questors, one of the UK's leading amateur theatre companies, has timed the production to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, part of a season of events to commemorate life of the "Bard of Avon", who is believed to have died on 23 April 1616, aged 52.
During his lifetime Shakespeare demonstrated sympathy with the plight of refugees. He contributed a speech to a play about Sir Thomas More in which the Tudor-era politician makes an impassioned plea for the humane treatment of the French protestant "Huguenot" refugees who sought asylum in London in the 16th century. In March the British Library announced that it would digitise a handwritten page from the script and make it available online.
Twelfth Night opens at The Questors Theatre in Ealing on Friday 22 April and runs until Saturday 30 April.
Twelfth Night is suitable for ages 11+
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
in the Judi Dench Playhouse at The Questors Theatre, Mattock Lane, Ealing W5 5BQ
7th April 2016