Twelfe Night, Or what you will (Ale House Theatre Co.) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Twelfe Night, Or what you will
The Ale House Theatre Co. production of Twelfe Night currently playing as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival is an admirable production of Shakespeare’s greatest comedy. The production’s gorgeous costumes and beautiful singing in the 16th century style set it apart from other recent Toronto productions.

Although the comedy is over 400 years old, the never ending supply of practical jokes, sexual puns, and witty zingers make Twelfe Night competitive with any modern comedy, especially when it is performed by a cast of goofballs like the Ale House Theatre Co. cast.

Chief among this production’s comedians is Jake Vanderham playing Feste the Jester. He performs the wordplay jokes made famous by Robert Armin the way Armin himself would perform them: like he had written them. Add to that the impressive displays of his singing talent in this show and you’ve got a can’t-miss performance.

Tal Shulman (who plays Malvolio) received the only mid-show round of applause for his performance of the famous scene in which his character reads a letter that he believes is a declaration of love from his superior Olivia. Personally, I don’t think he chewed the scenery enough in the role, but the Malvolio bits in Twelfe Night are always funny as long as the actor playing him is halfway competent.

Other standout performances in this production include Hilary McCormack as the regal, love-stricken Olivia and Peyton LeBarr, who brings pathos to an often confused and concerned Viola.

Both of these women are great in their respective roles, but I have to disapprove of director Joshua Stodart’s decision to play all of their scenes together as dramatic scenes. Some of the play’s best jokes are the ones that dance around Viola’s cross-dressing and almost none of them are played for the laugh in this production.

This production is exceptionally beautiful. The costumes are a sea of rich reds and greens with brilliant gold buttons, except for Olivia in an elegant mourning black. And the make-up on Olivia and Maria is perfectly period appropriate.

A costume also caused what I thought was one of the funniest moments of the night. When Dan Henkel entered as the priest in the last scene and couldn’t get his arm into one of his sleeves, both the audience and a few of the cast members couldn’t help but laugh. If they’re going for authenticity, nothing seems more authentically Shakespearean to me than actors laughing at each other on stage.

If you’re looking for a decent, somewhat-authentic Shakespeare experience, I’d tell you to go see Ale House Theatre Co.‘s production of Twelfe Night.


  • Twelfe Night, Or what you will is playing until July 12 at the St. Vladimir Theatre. (620 Spadina Avenue)
  • Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the peformance. Venue sales are cash-only.
  • Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
Remaining Showtimes
July 03 at 01:15 PM
July 05 at 03:30 PM
July 06 at 08:15 PM
July 07 at 04:30 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 04:30 PM
Photo of Hilary McCormack by Joseph Hammond.