Ip-art: Twelfth Night on the Park

Twelfth Night: Heartbreak Productions, Christchurch Park, Ipswich

Twelfth Night: Heartbreak Productions, Christchurch Park, Ipswich

With images of Glastonbury's mud only days behind, the Christchurch Park audience coped easily with the few drops rain that the dark skies offered when Heartbreak Productions came to Ipswich. The company came with a fresh and original approach to one of Shakespeare's supreme comedies and it worked a treat with a crowd that soon forgot the chill.

Shakespeare's comedy which throws into the air mistaken identities, identical twins, cross dressing, gender-bending, lost siblings all in the name of romantic love and its pain, presents just the challenge loved by this inventive company.

Their novel theme park set (based on the notion of obsessions) has a Ferris wheel and a green-and-white squared box structure with lots of convenient flaps and lids for the performers - six highly talented actor/musicians - to hide in like puppets.

The vagaries of dress and disguise are much-used motifs in the play and Heartbreak goes to town with the idea, especially in the headgear. Extravagantly monstrous wigs and veils abound.

Duke Orsino (played by director Andy Cresswell) has a green Elvis hair swirl, many characters have bowler hats with rubber hands or other symbols fixed on top and Sir Toby Belch has a traffic cone on his head.

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All this and the clowning element in the performances allow for the scale and broadness of comedy required in an outdoor show.

Knockabout revelry and visual jokes run through everything. There's the circus-style comic boxing match, and the pantomime exposure of the pompous, but ill-used Malvolio (also Andy Cresswell) complete with suspenders and codpiece. The music is worked similarly from the use of Beatles tunes to the soupy version of Cry Me a River played behind the 'If music be the food of love' speech.

The fun, however, is nicely set against a cynical emotional canvas, made all the more pointed by the wise-guy, comic wit of Feste the clown.

Things, we're made aware, are always on the point of going wrong. This is what brings an extra intensity to the second half sort-out when all is unravelled and the right guy gets the right girl.

It's good ensemble stuff with everyone doubling up roles, but Samantha Dew makes a saucy Olivia, Gabrielle Meadows a compelling Viola and Dan McGarry a wicked Feste.

Ivan Howlett