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Twelfth Night

Presented by Auckland Theatre Company
Auckland, New Zealand, 13 July-15 August 2006
written by William Shakespeare; directed by Michael Hurst


Michael participated in the University of Auckland lecture series and symposium
on Shakespeare and Twelfth Night; click here for info and pictures of these events.


Viola/Cesario   Tandi Wright   Sea Captain  
Charlie McDermott
  Paolo Rotondo  
  Brian Rankin
  Jennifer Ward-Lealand  
  Ben Kissel
  Jacque Drew  
  Esther Stephens
  Paul Barrett  
  Rachael Blampied
Sir Toby Belch
  George Henare  
Sir Andrew Aguecheek
  Peter McCauley  
  Michael Hurst
  Andrew Laing  
Set Design
  John Verryt
  Oliver Driver  
Lighting Design
  David Eversfield
  Jason Smith  
Costume Design
  Elizabeth Whiting
  Charlie McDermott  
Composer/Music Director
  Jason Smith

Click the photo below to go to our Twelfth Night photo gallery.

Director's Notes

Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's only play with a subtitle--"What You Will".  Will is "volition".  The heroine's name is Viola, whose "will" drives the play.  The self-loving opposite of Viola is Malvolio ("bad will") and her balance in love, the woman who is unable to move forward because her true love is mired in grief, is Olivia--volition or "will" confused and slightly jumbled (Olivia is almost an anagram of Viola).  "Will" is also an Elizabethan synonym for sexual desire and, of course, an abbreviation of William.

Viola herself is unable to move forward until her "other half", the supposedly drowned identical twin Sebastian is restored to her.  Looked at in terms of the psyche, Viola subverts the course of "will" by denying her female side and overpowering it with a male disguise.  She throws out her balance as well as the balance of the play, and neither can be brought under control until she herself is reintegrated as a whole person.  This of course happens when Sebastian is revealed as having survived the shipwreck, and only at this point, the very end of the play, can everyone's true "will" be put back on line.  Everyone has a happy ending except for Malvolio (though one might argue that Feste the fool is never happy) and it is this darkness at the edges of things which makes the play stand out as a kind of lozenge of golden, romantic light in the shadows of the mundane.

All this, and we haven't really got past the title!

Twelfth Night is a beautiful, emotional, intellectual and extremely funny play, justly regarded as one of Shakespeare's greatest.  It is full of secrets, connections and resonances that often operate on a level below consciousness.  It is sublime.

-Michael Hurst


Michal Hurst, director



Listener:  "For best production for the year, nothing could beat the Auckland Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night, Michael Hurst’s playful and dazzling take on Shakespeare’s giddy, lovestruck comedy.  Setting it in the 1950s on a tropical island inhabited by tipsy colonial misfits and dreamers was a stroke of brilliance, and all aspects of the highly imaginative production, from John Verryt’s exquisite beach design and David Eversfield’s painterly lighting to the terrific cast, were perfect.  It was a gorgeous, sensual show where Shakespeare’s text was utterly comprehensible – a rare feat even in professional theatre . . .  A fantastic and unforgettable show."

New Zealand Herald"Michael Hurst's anarchic take on Twelfth Night was the perfect antidote for the mid-winter blues.  Fully professional presentations of Shakespeare are becoming rare and this production confirmed the importance of such shows - not only for the pleasure they bring to audiences but also for the challenges they provide our leading actors."

Metro:  "Shakespeare's most delicious comedy combined a host of our finest thespians, from George Henare to Tandi Wright and Oliver Driver, under Hurst's sure eye with the sunniest and funniest production of the year."


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Reviews and Articles on Twelfth Night

Listener "Michael Hurst's dazzling Twelfth Night perfectly captures the giddy madness of romantic yearning.   . . . This is a production as clear and sparkling as its azure ocean."  . . .  "The imagination and exuberance of Hurst's production bring many moments of pure magic and the performances are uniformly excellent, with wonderful textual clarity and rich characterisations."

NBR:  "Theatrical genius Michael Hurst has set the play in the 1950s in an expat community somewhere in the Pacific." . . .  "Much of the play's appeal is in the delicious word play, which can often be lost if actors merely gabble the words.  The cast in this production revel in their ability to express the subtleties of the language with precise acting, timing and expression." . . .  "Jennifer Ward Lealand is stunning as the Grace Kelly lookalike Olivia . . . "

New Zealand Herald:  "Michael Hurst's scintillating production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night transports us to a sun-drenched beach in a world of music, drink, romance and madness - the perfect antidote for mid-winter blues."  " . . . joyous mayhem in this superb production."

Sunday Star-Times:   " . . . when done well Shakespeare is sublimely funny, supremely human, qualities this hilarious production achieves seemingly without effort, despite the sweat it must have taken.  . . . As the best theatre should, this production leaves us wanting more."

Theatrereview:  "Michael Hurst's interpretation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or, What You Will, is exquisitely crafted, beautiful, and enormously accessible.  The continuous ripples of hearty laughter from the opening night audience, who willingly interacted with the players, is testament to his triumph."