Join Viola, Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia in their ever-complicated love triangle on stage under the stars this summer in The Australian Shakespeare Company's "Twelfth Night".
From Thursday 13th February to Sunday 29th February, Shakespeare's iconic love story returns to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens, with a comedic twist.
Audiences are invited to immerse themselves in the romantic comedy, which sees Viola, a shipwrecked girl, cross-dress as a man to get a job and simultaneously fall madly in love with Orsino. All the while, Orsino pines for Olivia who refuses all his advances because she fancies Viola, without realising he is really a girl dressed up as a man!
Glenn Elston's comedic interpretation of Twelfth Night is an unmissable fusion of seventeenth-century drama and popular culture, sure to leave audiences in hysterics.
"Our interpretation of Twelfth Night will heighten Shakespeare's iconic characters with modern references, bright costumes, set design and countless twists and turns. Our aim is to create an atmosphere that feels like a world transcending time and space, mirroring the confusing nature of the play itself. Shakespeare was the original extremist, and we've taken inspiration directly from the source," said Elston.
The Australian Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare Under the Stars program offers something for everyone, having fast become an unmissable summer tradition for Melburnians and visitors alike. Theatregoers are welcome to bring along a picnic of their own or take advantage of the on-site bar and catering which is available to pre-order online and delivered directly on the evening of the performance. High and low chairs are also available for hire at the venue.
"Shakespeare Under the Stars offers something for everyone. Melbourne's great summer weather and fresh air make for the most relaxed theatre experience you'll find, allowing everyone to be immersed and engaged in the show's interactive offering. Everything is stimulating when you're being entertained outdoors; it's the perfect night out with friends and family," continued Elston.
TWELFTH NIGHT - The Australian Shakespeare Company
Location: Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens – Southern Cross Lawn, Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra
Dates: 13 February to 29 February 2020
Tickets: $25 - $110, visit shakespeareaustralia.com.au/shows/twelfthnight/, call 03 8676 7511 or via Ticketmaster
Question: What is the Twelfth Night?
Anna Burgess: Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's iconic romantic comedy. A tale that follows the ever-complicated love triangle of Viola, a shipwrecked girl, cross-dressing as a man to get a job who simultaneously falls madly in love with Duke Orsino. All the while Orsino pines for Countess Olivia who refuses his advances because she has fallen deeply in love with Viola, without realising he is a girl dressed as a man.
Question: What drew you to audition for the Twelfth Night?
Anna Burgess: I was drawn to audition for Twelfth Night because of its immense amount of heart that brings audiences so much joy. I saw the company's production last year and spent a great deal of time watching audience reactions. They were completely transported into this world full of all the colours of love. The great words of Shakespeare in conjunction with the songs and delicious performances was truly magical.
Question: Can you tell us about your character, Olivia?
Anna Burgess: The character that I play in Twelfth Night, Olivia, has a beautiful emotional arc throughout the play. Olivia is a regal, wealthy Countess who is grieving deeply for her brother's death and has promised herself that she will not be courted by any man for seven years. Until, that is, she meets Viola, who is dressed as a man and unknowingly opens a chamber to Olivia's heart that she never thought possible. Olivia until that moment in her life had never heard a man speak so passionately about love. The rest of play we observe Olivia fall through all the trips and turns of love, young love. It is quite endearing and comical to watch due to her desperate determination. We see Olivia's inner child run free as she risks it all for the one she loves.
Question: Are you similar to her character, in any way?
Anna Burgess: Yes and no. I have been told that I wear my heart on my sleeve and should protect myself in my love life and work. I have always disagreed with that. When I love, whether it be a partner, a show, a friend, a dog, I love big and if I love you, you'll know it. So I feel Olivia and I hold the same kind of hearts. We throw caution to the wind, and even though we may fall, we laugh or cry it off and try again. I, however am not a wealthy Countess. I am a hard-working actor and teacher!
Question: How have you been preparing ahead of the show?
Anna Burgess: I have been preparing for the role for a couple of months now while rehearsing and performing in the company's recent production of Hamlet. I played Osric and understudied the ever illuminating Alison Whyte who played Queen Gertrude. So I was juggling three Shakespearean characters at the same time which was an exciting challenge. In preparing to play the role of Olivia I have found life to be the greatest teacher. I have recently felt the true depths of love from a magnificent human being. I am forever grateful to that man and will always remember our time together on the pale blue dot.
Question: What can audiences expect from this production?
Anna Burgess: I am most looking forward to working with this incredible group of humans on this production and sharing it with audiences. The kindness these actors and production team members share is truly beautiful. Before every show the cast gather and hug and simply say, I've got your back out there. Great teamwork: what life is all about. I am a firm believer that no matter how good an actor is, if their heart or intentions are selfish you can always tell, but purity and kindness with a group of actors who just want to tell a story always rings true.
Question: What are you most looking forward to, about performing Twelfth Night?
Anna Burgess: Audiences can expect a comedic interpretation of the play from the company's Artistic Director, Glenn Elston. A fusion of seventeenth-century drama and popular culture, heightening Shakespeare's iconic characters with bright costumes, set design and modern references. All underneath the stars, whilst enjoying a picnic in the ever magical Royal Botanical Gardens.
Question: What originally inspired your passion for theatre?
Anna Burgess: One of my first pieces of theatre that I saw as a teenager was a Midsummer Night's Dream by The Australian Shakespeare Company with my family in the gardens. I remember thinking that it was magical madness and I wanted in! I was also studying ballet at the time and developed an immediate respect for the theatre from all aspects from an early age. For a young girl who was extremely shy, the theatre was always where I felt most comfortable and alive.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Anna Burgess: A typical day for me during a season of a show is kickboxing at 7am, dog park visit with my little mini schnauzer Willow, line runs at home, catch ups with a friend, a couple cups of coffee, afternoon nap, dinner, a walk through the botanical gardens before the show to clear my head, vocal warm up, game of Frisbee and then it's show time. When I'm not in season I try to spend as much time down the coast as possible in-between auditions and teaching.
Question: What's next, for you?
Anna Burgess: When Twelfth Night closes I will be playing the role of Anna in Lanford Wilson's Burn This at fortyfive downstairs in May, directed by Iain Sinclair. Fellow actor Mark Diaco and I have wanted to do this play for many years now and the time has finally arrived. I believe that if you're meant to play a role the timing will align, and it has. I look forward to telling the story of Burn This as I do each night with Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. After all, that's what we are, actors, we're storytellers. Who dance each night with the words of the playwright and the audience.
Interview by Brooke Hunter