When entering the suitably named Snug theatre at the Paradise in Augustines, you are greeted by two friendly hobo-clowns. These two take note of each person entering the theatre and mention that they reserve the front row for people whom want to participate in the show. This act of kindness should be more ubiquitous, but, alas that’s only a minor takeaway from this fantastic show! The pair, however, do need audience participation as they attempt to do the impossible, and perform a two-person version of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
2Elfth Night begins as the clowns, known as Doyle and Keane, disclose that the remaining members of the cast have all become displaced. Unwavering, and perhaps naively, the two carry on with the performance. Obviously, they can’t perform a coherent version of this story, and this confusion becomes a cleverly done show-within-a-show as it builds to a climax. Although the heat of the room may cause the audience discomfort, the pair never admit defeat and attack the story like a tornado of energy.
They change characters seamlessly, using new voices, different mannerisms, and as-slick-as-possible costume changes. However, during all of this absurdity, they still keep to much of the same dialogue as the piece from which the story derives. Thus allowing for both Shakespeare novices, as well as frequent visitors’ of the Globe Theatre in London, to find joy in the production.
The play finds a nice balance between interacting with the audience and showcasing the pair’s natural character acting and physical comedy. The pace of the performance also entertains those who don’t particularly follow the bygone text. Doyle and Keane do well to pepper in modern references, and break the fourth-wall when necessary to ensure everyone remains engaged. The joy and energy the pair bring to the performance provide the most delight for the audience. They seem to be having genuine fun telling this absurd rendition of a timeless story, whilst also giving it the grace it deserves, and ultimately providing laughter and smiles to everyone lucky enough to attend.