For the final play of its 100th season, the Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS) chose a production of Twelfth Night, Or What You Will. The show runs for two and a half hours, with a 15 minute intermission.
Notably, the same show was first put up by VCDS a century ago, with an all-female cast. “We re-mount it to celebrate our past and to look to our future as we continue to grow,” Executive Producers Alyssa DiBattista and Leora Nash wrote in their producers’ note.
During their introductory statements, DiBattista and Nash also pointed out how appropriately coincidental it was for opening night to fall on International Women’s Day.
Directed by Maya Wong, VCDS’ Twelfth Night is aesthetically cohesive, thanks to the clean and naturalistic set designed by Wong and Artistic Designer Abby Palmer. Often, student productions use similar ‘classic’ sets that are meant to be timeless. It was refreshing to see VCDS use wooden furniture, IKEA chairs, and even plants to create a modern stage.
The plot of Twelfth Night revolves around Viola (Kashi Syal), who falls in love with Orsino (James Hyett), who is in love with Olivia (Jasmine Cabanilla), who mistakes Viola for a man and falls in love with her. Madness, of course, ensues. Ironically, the chemistry between Syal and Cabanilla is palpable, perhaps more so than either of their chemistries with Hyett.
Admittedly, the show’s modern context is a bit confusing, as the hierarchal relationships between the characters are never fully explained. The blocking of the play also falls lacklustre at times, with multiple actors simply standing in a line during certain scenes.
However, Cabanilla sparks laughter every time she used her cell phone as a prop, and Wong creatively modernizes the traditional Shakespearean sword fights written into the play, with choreography by Jade Elliott McRae.
Maria (Nicole Bell) and Sir Toby (Jacob Levitt) are especially strong characters, thanks to Bell and Levitt’s performances. The two deliver their lines with such ease that the audience can clearly understand Shakespeare’s jokes. The scene with Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew (Braden Kenny), and Fabian (Maher Sinno) tricking Malvolio (Ryan Falconer) is particularly delightful to watch.
An original score composed by Music Director and Composer Sam Clark and Assistant Composer Wilfred Moeschter also makes this classic love triangle story unique. With the harmonizing voices of Percy Thomas and Yasmine Shelton, the musical interludes are gorgeous.
Overall, Twelfth Night is an aesthetically pleasing production featuring strong actors and a uniquely creative production team. For the love of VCDS, do not miss the end of this historic season.
Twelfth Night, Or What You Will will run at Isabel Bader Theatre until March 10.
Disclosure: Kashi Syal is The Varsity‘s Associate Arts & Culture Editor.