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Twelfth Night by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble - Review

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit
Last night I caught one of Shakespeare's most raucous comedies, Twelfth Night, at the Roma Street Parklands. This great production comes from the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble, who stage a Shakespeare in the Park Production every year.

Musical Introduction to the Twelfth Night
Musical Introduction to the Twelfth Night


About Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night starts with two twins, Viola and Sebastian being shipwrecked and separated. Viola, thinking her brother to be dead, disguises herself as a man to attend the court of Count Orsino. Meanwhile, Sebastian too believes his twin to be dead and arrives a few days later in town. Anyone who has every watched a TV sitcom knows where this is heading.

Scene from the Twelfth Night
Scene from Twelfth Night


This is a play about gender roles, mistaken identity and unrequited love. Did that sound too serious already? It is also a play full of sexual innuendo, drunken fools, sober fools, drunken sword fights and crazy pranks.

With simple modern language and crazy antics, Twelfth Night is one of the most accessible Shakespearean works and a great deal of fun.

The verdict

Having seen several performances by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble, I expected this to be a great fit for their style and love of incorporating live music into the staging. Not only were my expectations met, but greatly exceeded.

Normally for a performance they put the live band off to the side, but for Twelfth Night they put them front and centre. Of course, this play includes a number of musical lyrics written by Shakespeare himself, but they have added songs to the beginning and the end.

Twelfth Night is full of farce, sexual innuendo and characters doing hilariously improbable things. This is enhanced by the costuming and performance styles that evoke 1960s British sitcoms and Carry On movies. Overall what you have is one of the most accessible Shakespearean plays performed to capture the sense of fun that the author obviously intended.

Even if you never go to a play, this is the one performance you should look to attend. If you are into the theatre and Shakespeare, then the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble's performances at the Roma Street Parklands are well worth being on your list of plays to attend.

Notes of attending

The performance is outdoors in the park, but it is staged so that the audience sits on the stage with the actors. So you are under cover if it is raining. I highly recommend wearing warm clothes as it can still be cold at night this time of the year.

The Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre setup for a performance with seating on the stage itself
The Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre setup for a performance with seating on the stage itself


There is plenty of parking around the Roma Street Parklands and you can also come by bus or train to the parklands. The outdoor theatre is in the upper parklands, so you might want to look for parking along Wickham Terrace. The main car parks are on the other side of the park, but it is a well lit walk to the theatre through the park.

The paths in the Roma Street Parklands are well lit at night
The paths in the Roma Street Parklands are well lit at night


There are not that many restaurants near the parklands, so normally we will have a picnic or barbecue in the park beforehand. The best spot is the Lakeside Barbecues. It is legal to drink here as long as you don't use glass containers to consume your drinks. That is, if you bring a bottle of wine, you have to pour it into plastic cups to drink it.

People enjoying an evening barbecue at the Roma Street Parklands
People enjoying an evening barbecue at the Roma Street Parklands
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Why? A fun and accessible Shakespearean play in the park
When: Wed - Sat 7:30, Sat 2 pm, Sun 6 pm.
Where: Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre
Cost: $30/25
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