On Wednesday, in the cosy & quirky surroundings of Vout-O-Reenee’s, top classical theatre company Scena Mundi marked the official launch of their latest season. Based on the theme of ‘mistaken love’, it will bring two more of Shakespeare’s classic works to Soho for the spring/summer of 2016.
The main focus of the season launch was the previously announced production of Twelfth Night. Described by director Cecilia Dorland as “an Elizabethan banquet dressed by Vivienne Westwood”, it promises to be more of an immersive experience than just a regular Shakespearean production. Drawing on the influence of the surrealist movement & haute couture, it will feature costumes from up & coming designer Georgia Green – and see the French Protestant Church transformed into a fashion show, complete with its own runway.
In case you’re unaware, the story of Twelfth Night follows the fortunes of Viola, a noblewoman shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria & separated from her twin brother Sebastian. She decides the safest course of action is to dress in men’s clothes (under the name of Cesario) and seek employment with the Duke Orsino, who is pining with love for Olivia, who in turn is in mourning for her father & brother. Over the course of the play everyone is in & out of love, and with the wrong person, until its happy conclusion.
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
In Scena Mundi’s production, Harriett Hare and Emma Hall lead the cast as Viola and Olivia, with Pip Brignall playing Duke Orsino, Edward Fisher the fool (Feste), Martin Prest as Malvolio (& priest/officer), Jack Christie and Tom Winsor as Sirs Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek (also Curio & sea captain), Clare Brice as Maria/Sebastian and David Keogh as Fabian/Antonio.
Over the course of the evening the cast performed several sketches, five of which were taken from Twelfth Night. Particular highlights were Pip’s opening “If music be the food of love, play on…” speech, Jack & Tom embarking on some drunken tomfoolery, and Martin reading the letter left for Malvolio. These short performances really have whet my appetite even more for the full production. From the snippets I have seen it promises to be funny and full of heart.
Scena Mundi have not announced the second play in their season in writing, so I will keep my lips sealed about that for now – except to say that it is a bold choice, and one that I am personally very excited about. We were treated to a couple of tasters that completely sucked me in, and somehow reached a level of great intensity despite the company having only started early preparations for it very recently.
I feel very grateful to have been introduced to this wonderful company, having seen their 80s inspired Edward II last summer and 1920s themed Volpone in the autumn, and can’t wait to join them on their Shakespearean odyssey this season.
If you would like to know more about the season, the Theatre Tourist has written a lovely feature as a preview – and on Friday, Cecilia & Edward appeared on What’s Offstage on Soho Radio to talk about it.
Twelfth Night is playing at the French Protestant Church in Soho Square from 22 March – 9 April 2016, with its press night on 23 March. Tickets are available online.