FOR over a decade Alsager Community Theatre group has been performing open air productions of classic plays within the warped black and white walls of nearby Little Moreton Hall. Performed in the courtyard with minimal stage props, the setting lends an instant Elizabethan feel to this, one of Shakespeare's most enduring comedies.
Central to the plot is Viola, played by Deborah Smith, who disguises herself as a man to serve the noble Duke, but attracts unwanted affection from the countess Olivia. Meanwhile, her twin brother is also at court, leading to frequent cases of mistaken identity, which climax in an on/off fencing fight scene.
The sub plot, featuring Malvolio, who is tricked into thinking that the countess is in love with him, is also handled very well. Initially, Johnathan Hutchins plays Malvolio as a cold puritanical figure, but as soon as he is consumed by the midsummer madness and dons yellow stockings, the play swings into farce mode.
The comedic pairing of David Bryan, as a drunken Sir Toby Belch, and Rory Poole's flamboyant dandy, Sir Andrew, steal the show as far as laughter is concerned. In comparison, Matthew Bateman's Feste, the classic Shakespearean fool, almost comes across as the straight man. He is reserved a couple of songs however, accompanied by a three-piece folk band, which catapults this production into another level.
Alsager Community Theatre may not have done anything different with the material, but this production is well executed and the unique surroundings create a warm, intimate feel.