Cream Faced Loons (Twelfth Night)

As I left the performance space for Cream Faced Loons’ Twelfth Night, smiling broadly, I just thought ‘I loved this production’, and yet it was hard at first to define why.  Staged in an upstairs room at Z-arts, the audience sit at circular tables as if at a hotel party, indeed the setting is the Illyria Hotel.  Sound is provided directly by the actors with double bass, saxophone, and piano.  There’s no lighting, the room lights stay on all the way through.  The cast interact with the audience to borrow props, dance, hide and seduce; there’s a degree of improvisation.  In terms of immersive theatre it’s not complex but everything the cast do matches perfectly to the environment they create in the room.

It’s by no means perfect.  A couple of the scenes lose pace, some of the early cuts make for confusion around the characters, and some of the characterisations are better than others.  But what this production achieves that so many do not is a connection, a real engagement with the audience.  You’re in on the jokes, you’re part of the pretence, you really care about the characters.  At it’s heart, the concept of this production is remarkable and deep down in the director’s vision there is something very wonderful that has transferred onto the set.  The acting is true to this vision, creating believable and subtle characterisations; there are some very strong performances.

I first came across Cream Faced Loons as they worked their way around Manchester City Centre in August performing 37 scenes from 37 plays in Piccadilly Gardens, St Ann’s Square, and other central locations.  I think what I admire most is their belief in what they do, and their fundamental desire to present Shakespeare in a different light, perhaps truer to the original, certainly more accessible.  This is a company to look out for.

I’d love to see this production developed further, and brought to a wider audience.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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