MADC’s Shakespeare opens Friday

This marks the 69th annual instalment of the yearly tradition.
Francesco Nicodeme and Raphael Pace in Twelfth Night. Photo Justin Mamo

Opening night of MADC’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will fast approaches, and the show’s stellar cast and crew are preparing to welcome their first audience on Friday July 14.

Leading the cast of this Shakespearean favourite are Tina Rizzo, Steffi Thake, Pia Zammit and Stephen Oliver, alongside other top performers Francesco Nicodeme, Raphael Pace, Craig Abela, Kim Dalli, David Muscat, Nicholas Gambin, Katrina Lupi and Kim Woods. Co-directed by theatre veterans Chris Gatt and Pia Zammit, the show boasts an impressive creative team including costume designer Nicole Cuschieri and choreographer Francesco Nicodeme.

The production also includes several firsts: it will be the first time that MADC’s annual summertime Shakespeare play has a cast with an equal number of male and female actors. Likewise, this marks the first time actor Francesco Nicodeme will perform in an MADC Shakespeare, as well as oversee its choreography.

“It is always challenging to wear different performative ‘hats’, and this is definitely a very different experience from anything I have done so far,” Nicodeme explains. “I have really enjoyed interacting with the rest of the cast during our rehearsals and discussing our ideas about the characters and their relationships. I play Feste, who is quite particular in his ways. He is observant, quick and cleverer than others may think. Don’t judge him by his appearance! I love that the script offers many moments of comedy, and enjoy the general confusion caused by the ‘deceit’ of some of the characters’ gender.”

A fast-paced romantic comedy full of mistaken identities and practical jokes, Twelfth Night, or What You Will follows Viola and Sebastian, twins separated in a shipwreck. Viola disguises herself as Cesario and becomes a servant to the Duke Orsino, who is in love with the Countess Olivia. When Orsino sends Cesario to deliver love letters on his behalf, the Countess falls for Cesario instead, creating a love triangle and hilarious repercussions – especially when Viola’s long-lost twin Sebastian arrives.

As well as being the 69th annual instalment of MADC’s yearly Shakespeare tradition, Twelfth Night, or What You Will also celebrates the 400th anniversary since the play was first published in the 1623 First Folio.The Bard was originally thought to have penned the play as a Twelfth Night entertainment to close the festive season – although the plot has little to do with Christmas. Historically, Twelfth Night was celebrated the twelfth day after Christmas and tended to involve much merriment and mischief-making, with one tradition that men dress up as women and servants as their masters, and vice versa. It’s likely that Shakespeare found inspiration in these raucous Twelfth Night festivities – and MADC’s production will pay homage to that original spirit in its 2023 production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

“I have always enjoyed attending the MADC’s Shakespeare productions. It is now on my summer to-do list,” adds Nicodeme. “The ambiance at San Anton is magical and it is a unique experience for a summer’s evening. If you have not experienced it yet, then I recommend that you grab your tickets today!”

MADC’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will takes place at San Anton Gardens, Attard, on July 14, 15, 16, 17 and 19, 20, 21 22, 23 July, with all performances starting at 8.30pm. Book tickets at www.madc.com.mt.

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