“If music be the food of love, play on” – says Duke Orsino in a famous opening line of Twelfth Night or What You Will, arguably the funniest of Shakespeare’s comedies.

With this play the Siege Theatre, an Oxford-based company took over the stage outside the Oxford Castle and Prison to continue this year’s edition of the Shakespeare Festival there, which opened over a month ago with a very successful staging of Macbeth from the Tomahawk Theatre.

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The final production this year exceeds expectations as much as the first: Siege Theatre did an absolutely spectacular job to give its audience plenty of reasons to laugh – the play is not only nearly perfectly (and quite boldly!) cast, but it also fantastically stresses the comical rather than intellectual aspects of the Bard’s exploration of his well-known themes of separated twins (The Comedy of Errors) and misplaced romantic feelings (Midsummer Night’s Dream).

In effect, one has a quite unique chance of witnessing Shakespeare’s work staged in a way that resembles more of a contemporary stand-up comedy show than a dry theatrical piece of high intellectual value.

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This is probably very close to the times, when theatre was nothing more than a form of popular low culture, where different classes of society met and mingled.

But do not be deceived. However simple this is, Twelfth Night from Siege Theatre is a theatrical work of high quality.

It requires certain professional knowledge and trust in the cast’s skills to use silence in the way it is used here.

In effect, what one can witness first-hand at the castle, is a full audience of about 100 staying until the very end and laughing wholeheartedly – completely ignoring the fact, that the evening was rather chilly and the rain interrupted the second act.