This (sadly little-known) drama-comedy mockumentary follows the fortunes of a travelling theatre company, who are performing a modern and subversive adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the main players, including the egotistical and rather unpleasant Greg (Ferdy Roberts), and the heavy drinking and irresponsible, but ultimately likeable ‘Oz’ Oscar (Oliver Dimsdale), who started the company. The characters are all too believable, with the sometimes tense and claustrophobic atmosphere that one can feel when cooped up with the same people day in, day out, clearly shown. I liked Suzie (Sandy Foster), the understudy, who despite being the only person who had to audition to join the company, is never given her chance to shine (with Greg giving his own non-actor wife a part in the play rather than offer it to Suzie), and the other understudy Tony (Alex Avery), who is given a chance to shine, despite not being up to the part.
With actors Dominic West and Romola Garai playing themselves, giving their opinion on the company and the play, the realism is heightened. There are moments of comedy and some moments of pathos, mainly courtesy of Oscar, and it ends on a somewhat downbeat note, although that does not detract from the general enjoyment of the film.
I would say that a basic knowledge of the play Twelfth Night would help when watching this, although it is probably not a necessity. However, do not watch it expecting to learn what Twelfth Night is about, because it probably won’t help!
This is definitely a film for fans of Shakespeare, and even more so for fans of theatre in general, and how things operate after the curtain comes down. I really enjoyed it, and will certainly be watching it again in the future. (I wish it were better known; with many of the cast having acted in Shakespeare productions in real life, and all of the cast doing such a great job, it deserves more exposure. I was not even able to find a trailer for the film to post with this review, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it is well worth seeing.)
Year of release: 2012
Director: Simon Reade
Producers: Simon Reade, Guy de Beaujeu
Writers: Simon Reade, Guy de Beaujeu, William Shakespeare (play ‘Twelfth Night’)
Main cast: Oliver Dimsdale, Ferdy Roberts, Nicholas Tennant, Alex Avery, Sandy Foster, Poppy Miller, Victoria Moseley, Gemma Saunders