Review: 3BUGS Fringe Theatre's '12' | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: 3BUGS Fringe Theatre’s ’12’

Culture Critic Rosie Solomon reviews 3BUGS Fringe Theatre's production of '12', a reimagining of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, before it embarks on a run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

3BUGS Fringe Theatre is a drama society very close to my heart. Having been on the committee for over a year now, I have watched first hand as this society has struggled and strived to put on new and exciting theatre, culminating in a trip to Edinburgh Fringe at the end of each academic year. 12, then, described as a cabaret drag version of Twelfth Night, is the final product of a year of hard work for this society, and the preview of this show was much-anticipated by all.

Blending an impressive mixture of song, dance and Shakespeare, Annie Kershaw’s fabulous production certainly did not disappoint. Upon entering the dance studio, I was immediately struck by the singular clothes rail at the back of the stage. The bright colours of all the clothes on the rail was all that was needed to set the tone for the rest of this fun-filled performance, and when the cast performed a comical rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic to get the show started, I knew we were in for a treat.

an impressive mixture of song, dance and Shakespeare, Annie Kershaw’s fabulous production certainly did not disappoint

The nods to both drag and cabaret culture throughout were incredible to see, especially when carried off to such a high standard and with such enthusiasm, and it was clear each cast member took to their roles with delight. For those unfamiliar with the story, Twelfth Night comprises of many crossed wires when it comes to gender, even before we get to the drag elements introduced by Kershaw (remember She’s The Man? This is what it’s based on). Forging links between the drama societies and the LGBT community in the university, it’s clear that the cast and crew have done their research and every cast member, regardless of sexuality, tackled a potentially sensitive topic with the ease of those in the drag or LGBT community who have been doing it for years.

It was especially refreshing to see Malvolio, played by Esther Mead in a standout performance, receive a happy ending at the end of the show, something which is often overlooked and may have detracted from the overall carefree nature of the piece had it been left as it was originally. Mead attacked this role with an enthusiasm and emotion rarely seen in male actors who portray the Puritan as straight-laced, played only for laughs during the famous “yellow stockings” scene. However, with the addition of a well-timed recital of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, Mead was able to bring a dimension of pity and anger to the slighted character, who nevertheless remained in the bright neon fishnets for the duration of the song. If you are at the Fringe at all and are considering seeing this show, it’s worth it for those few minutes alone, as Esther commanded the stage and brought an element of true emotion to this otherwise light-hearted show.

The blend of Shakespeare, cabaret and drag is truly magnificent to witness

That is not to say, of course, that the other actors were completely overshadowed. Lucy Price, playing the roles of both Orsino and Toby Belch was another superb bit of casting, and Lydia Stone’s performance as Feste was full of all the sass and charisma which the character requires. Overall the cast seemed like an incredibly tight unit, working together throughout the performance to create a piece whose strength lay in the teamwork it took to carry it off.

If you find yourself in Scotland this summer, I must urge you to see this performance by any means necessary. The blend of Shakespeare, cabaret and drag is truly magnificent to witness, and there is no doubt in my mind that this show and others like it will pave the way for new Shakespearian productions if we are to keep the Bard’s work fresh and relevant to our ever-changing culture.

3Bugs will be taking their production of 12 to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, from the 14th to the 26th of August. As such, it is customary to provide a star rating - Rosie awards this production 4.5 of 5 stars. More information on the Fringe run can be found here



16th June 2017 at 4:59 pm

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