Rebecca Varidel
27th Jan 2023

William Shakespeare is coming to Sydney WorldPride 2023, with a queer-focused production of Twelfth Night: or What You Will.

This production of Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy of mistaken identity has been programmed for Pride Amplified, which is an open access program for arts, culture, community, experiences and parties as part of WorldPride. Produced by Fingerless Theatre, the cast is primarily made up of LGBTQIA+ actors, to reflect the values of Pride Amplified, but also to highlight the queer themes and content in the play.

Director Alex Kendall Robson says that without any alteration or adaptation, the four-hundred-year old play is explicitly queer.

“Gender non-conformity and same-sex attraction has always existed, and was often celebrated in the arts. Setting aside Shakespeare’s own potential bisexuality, the real queens of the Elizabethan-Jacobean era included fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe, and two of his patrons, the Earl of Southampton and even King James I.”

Robson studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and had secured a scholarship to study at Shakespeare’s Globe in London just before the covid pandemic brought an end to international travel.

The play’s protagonist, Viola, finds herself stranded alone in a strange country, and so disguises herself as a man for her own safety. A love triangle soon forms, with a man and a woman both falling for Viola’s male persona, Cesario. Viola will be played by Jade Fuda, who last year appeared in Sport For Jove’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as a masculine-presenting Benvolio.

“Bisexuality often struggles to have its own identity in queer work, often hiding in a corner or left ambiguous. ‘Twelfth Night’ however is unabashedly bisexual; everyone is attracted to each other and at every corner reminds us that there is no stagnant definition of gender.”

The play has several songs, with Shakespeare’s lyrics being set to music by Antonio Fernandez. These will be performed by Zachary Aleksander, who last collaborated with Fernandez on the camp and critically acclaimed ‘H.M.S Pinafore’ as part of the 2021 Sydney Festival.

Twelfth Night: or What You Will runs 1 - 11 March at Flow Studios, Camperdown.