Sex change Shakespeare launches new Lyceum season

Dylan Read, Dawn Sievewright and Joanne Thomson in Twelfth Night rehearsals.
Dylan Read, Dawn Sievewright and Joanne Thomson in Twelfth Night rehearsals.
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A TALE of unrequited love and mistaken identity, Twelfth Night is widely considered to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies.

Mischief and mayhem abound in Illyria after twins Viola and Sebastian are separated in a shipwreck.

Believing her brother to be lost forever, Viola, disguised as a man, finds herself caught between the households of the lovelorn Duke Orsino and the grieving Countess Olivia.

Servants, friends and lovers entwine in a whirlwind tale of mistaken identity, misadventure and unrequited love. Will all come good in the end?

In the new Royal Lyceum and Bristol Old Vic co-production, its not just the characters who are gender-bending.

Christopher Green, perhaps best known as cabaret drag characters Tina C and Ida Barr, takes on the role of Malvolio while the traditionally male roles of Toby, Orsino and Sebastian are played by Dawn Sievewright, Colette Dalal Tchantcho and Joanne Thomson respectively.

That said, gender-blind casting is nothing new in Twelfth Night, Vivien Leigh famously played Sebastian in John Gielgud’s acclaimed 1955 production.

Director Wils Wilson says, “I’m very excited and a little humbled to be directing this wonderful play.

“It’s Shakespeare’s play of celebration and revelry - and like all good parties there are moments of joyful abandon, friendship, flirtation, fun, discovery and great live music - but also, confusion, thoughtless cruelty and embarrassment.

“I love the play for its warmth and wit, and also for its brilliant and fearless exploration of human frailty - it is a rich and complex world to dive into, one which plays with all the senses, and I can’t wait to explore it to the full. It is a play I have wanted to direct for a long time.”

Lyceum artistic director David Greig adds, “I adore Twelfth Night. It has all the glorious Shakespearean tropes of twins, and lost love, and misunderstood intentions but, in Malvolio, it also has one of the most gloriously human and humane portrayals of the straight man in a world of fools. “Wils Wilson is a director who consistently turns the theatre into a generous and magical space of music and transformation.

“I’m also delighted we’ll be working with Meilyr Jones, who will bring a warm, fuzzy psychedelic edge to this timeless story.”

Jones will perform his original compositions for the piece live on stage during the performance.

Twelfth Night, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, 14 September-6 October, 7.30pm (2pm), £14-£32, 0131-248 4848