Twelfth Night at The Royal Exchange

Andrew Anderson
© Royal Exchange

Twelfth Night at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre 13 April — 20 May 2017 Tickets from £16.50 — Book now

There’s nothing new about the Royal Exchange putting on a Shakespeare play. But when that play casts the theatre’s first ever transgender actor it’s time to pay attention. Twelfth Night, one of the Bard’s cross-dressing comedies, will star Manchester trans performer Kate O’Donnell in the role of Feste. Not only that, but the play also marks the Royal Exchange debut for Jo Davies, an award winning director who scored success with the 2015 musical Kiss Me, Kate.

Before we go any further let’s refresh our memories as to the plot: Twelfth Night sees twins Viola and Sebastian separated in a shipwreck (old Bill loved a good shipwreck). Viola then disguises herself as man, and ends up falling in love with Duke Orsino (who of course thinks she is a he), while at the same time attracting the romantic advances of Countess Olivia. As if that wasn’t confusing enough Sebastian shows up on the scene, leading to a muddle of mistaken identities.

Strip back the silliness though and you’ll find this play is really about is identity, belonging and longing for love – quite serious themes for a comedy. O’Donnell’s character Feste, the wise old fool, is the one who looks on from the side-lines and understands what the other’s are too wrapped up in to see.

It’s great that the Royal Exchange has cast O’Donnell – and of course doing so will raise awareness for her queer activism work – but even better that she’s been cast in a part that is not traditionally a ‘trans’ role. What I mean by that is that this is not a token gesture, but simply a recognition that O’Donnell (who is a top comic performer) is simply right for the part. I’m sure she’ll make a great fool, and that this will be a Shakespeare adaptation to remember.

Twelfth Night at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre 13 April — 20 May 2017 Tickets from £16.50 Book now

What's on at Royal Exchange Theatre

Where to go near Twelfth Night at The Royal Exchange

St Ann’s Square
City Centre
Park
St Ann’s Square

St Ann’s Square is a quiet little enclave of shops, with Barton’s Arcade set back from it on one side, and St Ann’s Church, which dates back to 1712 and…

Rapha Clubhouse Manchester
City Centre
Shop
Rapha Clubhouse Manchester

AKA cyclist heaven, Rapha is more than just a cycle-wear shop. It’s a place for anyone who loves cycling to congregate and celebrate the sport together.

City Centre
Bar or Pub
The Botanist

The Botanist on Deansgate, Manchester, does botanical cocktails and toothsome food with aplomb.

City Centre
King Street Manchester

King Street is one of the most picturesque parts of Manchester with buildings designed by Alfred Waterhouse and C.R. Cockerell. Once Manchester’s financial epicenter, it’s now home to high-end retail and fine dining.

Manchester
Restaurant
KAI Deansgate

Kai is a Turkish restaurant on Deansgate, set up by the brains behind the well-regarded Zouk restaurant. Expect excellent mezze plates and an open grill that releases wonderful aromas throughout the venue.

City Centre
Restaurant
Lunya Manchester

Lunya is a Spanish and Catalan deli and restaurant in Manchester’s stunning Barton Arcade. The food is reliably fresh and the staff both charming and incredibly knowledgable.

What's on: Theatre

Culture Guides