2020 Season

This season has now finished. The cast and crew would love to thank everyone who came along to see the play! We all thoroughly enjoyed bringing you Twelfth Night, the riotous, gender-bending, jukebox musical of a party, set in a modern Illyria channelling the 80’s/90’s Vaporwave AESTHETIC は線フ.

2020 Summer Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

For its 18th birthday and coming of age, Manawatū Summer Shakespeare is bringing Palmerston North one of the Bard’s silliest plays for a wild night out.
Twelfth Night, directed by international immersive theatre director and visiting artist Mel.Cook, is a “colourful and quirky production of chaotic comedy” for the whole family.
The romantic comedy promises lust, laughs and larks in the Victoria Esplanade’s rose garden.

Producer Rachel Lenart said audiences should expect action in all directions, with lots of gaudy jokes and silliness.
A platform had been erected over the lake, but there would also be action in the bushes and in the background of the gardens to keep the audience on its toes.
“So much of the comedy is physical,” she said.
The play was contemporary, with local jokes and a modern take to make Shakespeare’s work more accessible. “Language doesn’t have to be a barrier,” Lenart said.

Set in modern day Illyria, the inhabitants of the Twelfth Night exist in an 80s and 90s nostalgic world, with 21st century technology.
Lenart said there were spot prizes for those who showed up in costume – she encourages mullets and neon.
The play was also inclusive and LGBTQIA+ friendly, with themes of gender identity running throughout.
“It feels like the perfect play for 2020,” she said.

“Set in an extremely privileged modern world. These are people who ultimately have the space and freedom to question and remake their identities. Young, well-heeled influencers; older, party lech uncles; and the support staff who actually work. So, a rollicking party with identity bass.”

Director Mel.Cook

Entry is by koha or gold donation, and there are benches for people to sit on and plenty of room for picnic blankets and prams.
Performing at the Victoria Esplanade Rose Garden on top of the pond: 7pm on February 27, 28 and 29, and March 4, 5, 6 and 7. There will also be a matinee at 5pm on March 1.

2020 Twelfth Night Poster
80’s/90’s Vaporwave AESTHETIC は線フ

From the director

“Vaporware” is commercial software that is announced but never released. “Vaporwave” is a dream of a world that was promised but never realised. The AESTHETIC draws on sources from the highs of the 1980s to the horrors of 2001, reimagining a shiny future when consumer capitalism and technoculture was going to save us all, from the bittersweet nostalgia of the future we’ve reached.

So, this is Illyria, lady. A vaporwave world of yacht-dwelling party people, falling in desperate love with people they’ve barely met. Tragedies like shipwreck deaths are brushed away; comedies like steward shenanigans receive massive import.

Twelfth Night is Christmas’ Mardi Gras; a full day of ritualised drunken revelry and masked inversion of the social order. The Lord of Misrule reigned as servants dressed as their masters, men as women, and people fell in love with people they didn’t know (if only for one night).

When William Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I, England faced troubling times. Economic hardship, plagues, rebellions, and change swept the nation. The Queen had addressed her last parliament, and the future of the nation was extremely uncertain. So, she commissioned a party. A big, cross-dressed, musical party, with a huge romantic heart, where her people could revel, for a few bright hours, with the rich and beautiful in love.

Time is a flat circle. We, too, live in dark, uncertain times. The world seems run by madmen. The planet is burning. Death and destruction fill our daily feeds. It can be hard to find the light.
So celebrate life. Live in this moment. Love who you love. Let the clouds go away.

‘Tis better to crack a glowstick than curse the darkness…

Photo credit: Anu Grace Photography

What the audiences said

“The actors were amazing this year and the costumes, lighting, music and props were very professional.”

“The cast – all of them – understood the text they were interpreting, The direction was imaginative.”

“Highlight was the audience interactions, the dedication and commitment, and the aesthetic of the show— loved the 80s vibe!”

“The LGBT themes were amazing to see! Especially for a small town like Palmy which doesn’t even hold a pride event or anything.”

“It engaged both my children (age 9 & 11) and held their attention the whole time despite them not really understanding the dialogue. Having cast members interact with them helped with that experience.”

“All highlight: the scenery, the talented actors (and DJ!), the “vibe”. Just spectacular!”

Photo credit: Anu Grace Photography