All at Sea for Twelfth Night

“Saucy at my gate!” 


“Excellently done, if God did all”

Caesario to Olivia


Cast of Twelfth Night (Photo: Richard Lakos)

Set in a seaside bar called “Olivia” with waiting staff dressed as sailors, Owen Horsley’s Twelfth Night  is certainly different but is this difference for the better?  Orsino (Raphael Bushey) is dressed in naval summer kit, in white uniform with plenty of brass on his epaulettes. 

Viola (Evelyn Miller) enters wearing a life jacket and long hair before, as Caesario, she dons a junior seaman’s wide trousers and short beribboned jacket.  There was a point when in the open air, I feared a very cute Viola would be upstaged by a pair of noisy, green London parakeets.  This theatre is second to none in atmosphere and setting on a summer’s night in the trees and greenery of Regent’s Park.    

Evelyn Miller as Viola / Caesar and Raphael Bushey as Orsino (Photo: Richard Lakos)

Olivia (the magnificent Anna Francolini) is first seen with a ridiculously long black net trailing train, carrying the urn which holds her brother’s ashes.  The extremes of emotion she holds for her late brother are soon transferred into the demeanor of a giggly school girl, infatuated with the much younger looking Caesario. Olivia is self aware when she apologises to her brother’s ashes for her new devotion.

It is the portrayal which didn’t convince me of Sir Toby Belch (Michael Matus) as the resident drag queen in the bar, wearing sparkly frock with exaggerated hip pieces and Elton John type platform boots and a large wig.  Later he appears to be entirely dressed in gold gift ribbons which end up decorating other people and the stage floor. Feste (Julie Legrand) is an odd adjunct although I did like her singing of those rather morose songs. 

Anna Francolini as Olivia (Photo: Richard Lakos)

For once the twins in this play really did look alike although they were onstage together for too little time as Sebastian (Andro Cowperthwaite) doesn’t hang around to be married to Olivia but renews his acquaintance with the sea captain Antonio (Nicholas Karimi).  I wonder whether here the Open Air have shot themselves in the foot (apologies to Julie Legrand for the unintentional reference to her broken foot) unless they no longer rely on the schools’ audience for those studying Shakespeare’s plays.  There is no happy ending here for Olivia. 

Andrew Aguecheek (Matthew Spencer) bears a passing resemblance to the young Prince William.  Aguecheek wears a toupee.  I wonder when it will become politically incorrect to deride baldness, as it is now for obesity.  I have no idea why the caper dance was left out unless of course I nodded off and missed it, in which case I apologise.  However Matthew Spencer has good comic timing and made us laugh.

Michael Matus as Sir Toby Belch. (Photo: Richard Lakos)

Malvolio (Richard Cant) does too little to offend Maria (Anita Reynolds) and Sir Toby to deserve the vicious prank that is played on him. His yellow lederhosen and knee stockings have yellow braces and cross pieces although the garters are singular as he imagines himself able to discipline Sir Toby.  Olivia runs away when faced with Malvolio’s advances and these scenes with Anna Francolini are a highlight. Malvolio’s smiling is masterly.

I greatly enjoyed Orsino’s body language and expression when questioning his sexuality as he feels attraction to Caesario  although I am not sure they convince as a natural pair. 

This Twelfth Night  is a curate’s egg (the curate is played by Julie Legrand) but the setting is magical.

Anna Francolini as Olivia (Photo: Richard Lakos)

Production Notes

Twelfth Night

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Owen Horsley



Andro Cowperthwaite

Anita Reynolds

Anna Francolini

Evelyn Miller

Harry Waller

Jon Trenchard

Julie Legrand

Katherine Toy

Matthew Spencer

Michael Matus

Nicholas Karimi

Raphael Bushay

Richard Cant

Sally Cheng


Director:  Owen Horsley

Set Designer: Basia Bińkowska

Costume Designer:  Ryan Dawson Laight

Lighting Designer: Aideen Malone

Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim

Fight Director: RC Annie

Musical supervisor: Sam Kenyon
Movement director: Daniel Hay-Gordon



Running Time: Two hours 45 minutes with an interval

Booking to 8th June 2024


Open Air Theatre

Regent’s Park

Inner Circle

London NW1 4NU

Phone: 0333 400 3562


Tube: Baker Street

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Open Air

on 9th May 2023