Theatre in Liverpool

Theatre Review: Twelfth Night at Shakespeare North Playhouse

Warrington’s theatre company, Not Too Tame, have provided the Prescot venue with a real marmite of a production. Some of you are going to love it, whilst others, not so. But what can’t be doubted is the level of commitment that the ensemble of the cast bring to their performance. 

The play’s setting shifts from Illyria to one of a musical industry setting, one which seems to dwindle in importance as the play progresses. But in its earlier parts, the music industry motif is heavily relied on, including musical numbers that seem to be shoehorned into proceedings in order to justify, rather than enhance. 

After a very charged scene between Cesario and Olivia, it is bewildering why the latter should perform the former number one 1990’s smash Stay, whilst the former has exited stage left. Another irritant is the divergence of the script, and contemporary additions to the dialogue. I suppose it could be argued that this theatrical device can be extremely powerful – for example the Porter’s Scene in Macbeth – but here it seems unnecessary and trite. 

More successful is the cast and energy and zest they bring to their performance. And when left to deliver the original prose, there do they shine. The physicality of the comedic action is also astutely directed by Jimmy Fairhurst, which hints at much more promise to come from him as his career progresses. 

Jack Brown as Sir Toby Belch channels a young Rik Mayall, and Louise Haggerty oozes confidence as Feste who keeps it all together. However, a notable mention must go to Les Dennis who plays Malvolio in a more traditional comic/ tragic way. 

Although you can literally smell the gammon-like attitudes of this faithful but pompous servant sizzling away on a low heat, Dennis manages to keep the character sympathetic, deserving the audience’s empathy at the close of the play. 

What is evident is Dennis’ great ability to communicate at an emotional level, and his performance is proof of this. I think that his best work is yet to come, going on his superb performance here. 

One of the many reasons why Shakespeare remains relevant to day is the power of his prose. It is a slippery slope when productions begin to play fast and lose with the written word. Does it still remain as The Bard intended? Or are his, and the other multitude of great artistic works, mere templates to be manipulated? Such questions and others lead us from one production to another. No one gig is the same. But you have to engage to find out. 

What certainly does matter is that at the final curtain the audience and the cast are at one, and this production certainly succeeds in this. Not Too Tame delivers the theatre of energy, of inclusiveness, of emotional exploration. It evokes an epiphany of possibilities, a glimpse of a life you can be living. And as the audience cheered today, they all realised that too. 

Twelfth Night runs at the Shakespeare North Playhouse until 29 June. Find out more and book your tickets at

Steve Kinrade


Founder and Editor, Clare Deane, shares her passion for all the amazing things happening in Liverpool. With a love of the local Liverpool music scene, dining out a couple of times a week and immersing herself in to all things arts and culture she's in a pretty good place to create some Liverpool Noise.

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