Feeling groovy at the Phoenix Theatre

Viola

Viola

REVIEW: Twelfth Night, or What You WillParsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – time to revisit a standard, done up mid-century-style, complete with Hare Krishnas, Beatle boots and trippin’ the light fantastic.The University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will most certainly is fantastic. But Shakespeare purists may not be as receptive to the pre-eminent dramatist’s tale of gender-bending mistaken identity, set in 1970 and jazzed-up with far-out jam sessions, air-keyboard and an inebriant or two.Perhaps the diehard champions of Elizabethan-style production have loosened up. The rows of smiling faces revealed each time the dreamy, psychedelic lights swept across the sold-out opening night crowd would support such a theory.Shipwrecked and distraught over what she believes to be as her brother’s death, Viola (Sarah Koury), dresses as a man in a turban and love beads and joins Orsino’s court – a.k.a. the Hare Krishnas.Shakespeare’s story of Viola (or “Cesario,” once disguised as a swami) is done justice through commendable performances, dynamic sets and all together amusing movement. Against a backdrop of “thinly veiled Brighton by the sea,” director Linda Hardy demonstrated her expertise in voice by infusing scenes with simple, yet effective tunes of the time.Movement director Kaz Piesowocki, who trained with the Polish Mime Company and Warsaw Ballet, made his own mark on the play.Fencing duels with golf clubs; backflips, somersaults, chase scenes across a revolving stage – there was enough energy bounding about the set to make even the laziest ex-hippy want to get up and smile on their brother.With court musician Andrew Gillot churning out musical punch lines – in the form of a well-timed riff here, or opening bars to “Day Tripper” there – barely a moment in the show wasn’t used to its fullest.Any hesitation on stage had dissolved by the end of the first half, with the second act a wild ride to the finish.The show closes with a somewhat predictable, yet oh-so-fitting rendition of the Fab Four’s “All You Need is Love” – not quite the segue into what could have been a well-earned onstage orgy, but aural satisfaction nonetheless.Following Koury’s wholly convincing (and rather charming) final moments as Viola and Andrew Wade’s hilarious unravelling as the love-duped Malvolio, the lively cast proved themselves worthy of filling seats for the last nights of Twelfth Night.nnorth@saanichnews.com

Check it outTwelfth Night, or What You Will runs nightly at 8 p.m. through March 5, with a 2 p.m. matinee set for Saturday. Tickets are $22 (seniors and student discounts available for all shows but Saturday), available at the Phoenix Theatre box office or by calling 250-721-8000.