Photo by Matt Austin Images

Alumni theatre company stages Shakespeare production in World War I setting

Alumni from the English and Drama departments at the University of Exeter will be staging a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (or What You Will) in Exeter and Tiverton from tomorrow (15 November).

The theatre company, Sun & Moon Theatre, was founded by two alumni, Melissa Barrett (BA English 2012 and MFA Staging Shakespeare 2014) and David Johnson (BA Drama 2013). Other alumni performing in the production are George Bradley (BA Drama 2013), Richard Knox (MFA Staging Shakespeare 2012), and Bryony Reynolds (BA Drama 2014). Current students, Hannah Clancy (BA English and Drama 2017) and Emily Reader (BA English 2018) are also involved, respectively as Tech Operator and Actor/Cellist. PhD student in the College of Humanities, Tom Chadwick, was the company’s Fight Director.

This production, which features live music and filmed footage, was staged earlier in the year as a work-in-progress. It was later revived in the summer as an open-air production, and now this mini tour is the final result of a year’s work, funded partly by a Kickstarter campaign. They have performed it in Exeter, Barnstaple, Bristol, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open-Air Dell Festival to rave reviews. The company has chosen to set Shakespeare’s comedy exactly 100 years ago at Christmas, befitting the beginning of the Christmas season and the centenary of the First World War.

Melissa said: “We experiment with different eras, to not only shine a light on the plays' themes and how they still resonate and connect strongly to the 1910s, 1920s, etc. but more importantly, how they resonate and still ring true today. The First World War ‘at home’ felt like a fitting era for Twelfth Night (or What You Will), as Shakespeare’s characters are avoiding painful realities through contrasting modes of distraction, distancing themselves from what is going on beneath the surface, particularly in terms of grief and loss. By setting it at Christmas, it is a period in which the highs and lows feel even more extreme, let alone it being staged in war time.”

Twelfth Night (or What You Will) is on 15-16 November at The Cygnet Theatre in Exeter and on 17 November Tiverton Community Arts Theatre in Tiverton. There will be mulled wine at both events. 

Date: 14 November 2017

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