• By: Karen Temple

Kanata’s Theatre’s Production of Twelfth Night is Community Theatre at its Best

The stage at Kanata’s Ron Maslin Playhouse has been beautifully transformed into an idyllic seaside village for the Kanata Theatre’s latest production, Twelfth Night.

Award-winning director Jim Holmes leads the all-volunteer cast and crew in this staging of the Bard of Avon’s final comedy. From the minute you take your seats, the entertainment begins. A group of musicians take to the stage, and it is not long before the love-struck Duke Orsino (Ian Gillies) enters to wax poetically about his love for the “sweet perfection” of the beautiful Countess Olivia (Emily Walsh).

As your ear adjusts to the sound of old English, your eyes can’t help but feast on the spectacular sets. A glance at the program confirms that a crew of two dozen plus assisted Set Designer Dean Flockton in creating the town square, complete with colourful house fronts and cobblestone streets.

Those unfamiliar with Twelfth Night might read the play’s description and think the combination of twin siblings, a nasty trick and a love triangle would make it hard to follow, but far from it, the performance is a joy to watch, and the story unfolds seamlessly. Shakespeare’s mastery is evident in the simplicity despite the complex plot.

Act II introduces the shipwrecked Viola (Abbey Sugars-Keen), a young woman grief-stricken by the loss of her brother and alone in an unfamiliar city who adopts the disguise of Cesario and uses her smarts to make things work for her. She is an incredibly courageous character, especially considering the play was written in 1601. Viola is not unlike Countess Olivia, who lost her father and her brother and who has sworn off men for seven years while she grieves. The two women become part of a love triangle that is complicated by Viola’s hidden identity.

Soon, the antics of Sir Toby Belch (Greg Winklemaier) and Sir Andrew Agucheek (Brian McManus) will have you chuckling. Sir Toby is Olivia’s heavy-drinking uncle (Belch.. Ha!), while Sir Andrew is a suitor of the countess. The duo is hilarious and lights up the stage. Special mention goes to the performance of jester and music man Feste (Kenny Hayes), who continues the laughs but also provides the voice of reason and wisdom absent in Sir Toby’s character.

Olivia has a third suitor in Malvolio (Barry Daley). The countess’s trusted but rather egotistical steward is tricked into thinking she lusts for him, while Olivia has eyes only for the duke’s steward — Viola, in disguise! The story twists and turns, including a duel that appears menacing but is instead the height of hilarity. It isn’t long before identities are revealed and happiness comes to all. Well, almost all.

Jim Holmes is a veteran of Kanata Theatre, previously directing 29 productions, including another of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His experience shows.

Kanata Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night is community theatre at its best. Everything about the performance, including the staging, music, lighting, sound and acting, is top shelf.

The production of Twelfth Night continues at Ron Maslin Theatre until November 18, 2023.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Ron Maslin Theatre is located at 1 Ron Maslin Way, Kanata.

HEADER IMAGE: (LEFT TO RIGHT) Dale McEachern as Sir Toby Belch, Brian McManus as Sir Toby Aguecheek, and Kenny Hayes as Feste.

Photos: Alex Henkelman