Twelfth Night at The Royal Exchange

Andrew Anderson
© Royal Exchange

Twelfth Night at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre, 13 April–20 May 2017, 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
From £16.50

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Music Until 5 July 2022, from £12

RNCM Summer Season 2022

Music Until 8 July 2022, from £0.00

RNCM Lunchtime and Spotlight Concerts

Summer Theatre at HOME
Theatre Until 9 July 2022, from £12.50

Summer Theatre at HOME

Activity Until 11 July 2022, FREE

Klezmer Tune Club at Manchester Jewish Museum

The Saturday Sessions at Company Chameleon Studios
Childrens Until 16 July 2022, from £3.00

The Saturday Sessions at Company Chameleon Studios

Childrens Until 16 July 2022, FREE

Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth

Creative Movement at Company Chameleon Studios
Dance Until 27 July 2022, from £3.50

Creative Movement at Company Chameleon Studios

Activity Until 28 July 2022, from £12.50

Behind the Scenes Tour of Central Library

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2022
Comedy Until 31 July 2022,

Greater Manchester Fringe 2022

Activity Until 31 July 2022, from £95.00

Gin School with Manchester Gin