Review: Twelfth Night Double Bill at St Mary’s Centre

Last night I was delighted to attend the second of a three-night collaboration event between Jigsaw Music Theatre and Quartz Youth Theatre, showcasing their skills in two short plays entitled ‘Twelfth Night Double Bill’. St Mary’s Centre was packed out with proud parents and eager spectators gathered to enjoy two very talented crews in two fresh, original pieces of theatre.

The first to take to the stage was Jigsaw Music Theatre in their production of ‘Christmas Day in the Workhouse’, a piece based on the local history of the Victorian Chester Roodee Workhouse, written by Will Wood and the Company themselves. Direction was provided by Millie Stevenson and Sara Hirst, whilst the original musical numbers and adaptations of popular carols were done by Erin Elston, Lily Adams and Lucy Bradburn.

The story follows the children of the workhouse through their typical daily grind, outlining some of the circumstances by which they come to be at the mercy of the sinister Master Gross-Nature and how their grueling routine of ‘Work, Learn, Bed’ wears them down. Until, on Christmas Day, there is a change to the routine, and the possibility of a brighter future ahead. The cast of thirty one children filled the caverns of St Mary’s with sound as they performed excellent songs and choral speaking, creating a bittersweet atmosphere as they try to make the best of their situation. The musical numbers were well timed and often darkly humorous despite the children’s desperate situation.

My favourite exchange was certainly: “These potatoes are hard as rocks”, to which one adorable urchin replied: “I think mine is a rock”.

After a short interval, Quartz Youth Theatre transformed the stage into a rowdy tavern named ‘The Illyria Arms’ for their Revellers’ Adaptation of the Shakespeare classic Twelfth Night. The piece was adapted by Steph Green, with music from Erin Elston and Joanne Bently.

The classic tale of mistaken identity, love triangles and cross-dressing was given a fresh spin by a second cast of pubgoers, who regularly interrupt Shakespeare’s original prose to move the story along, and clarify the more unclear plot points for those who may be unsure. Twenty one young actors took on parts as narrators or Shakespeare’s cast to recount the tale, which was superbly acted throughout. The excellent Feste the jester led many of the cast in their musical interludes, which were rousing and joyous. Everyone in the production gave it their all and can be very proud of a story well delivered.

For me, the standout performance came from the young lady whose dual role as Viola and Cezario was complex and compelling. She delivered Shakespeare’s prose beautifully, and her duet with brother Sebastian at the very end of the play was a real tearjerker.

If you’re looking for somewhere to go tonight, head down to St Mary’s before 7.30 (well before, if you want a good seat) and take in the final night of this high quality double bill. More details can be found at St Mary’s What’s On Page.

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