Review: Twelfth Night at Hoxton Hall

The Salon Players’ entertaining take on Shakespeare comedy makes for a fantastic alternative panto night out

Who’s behind you? At Hoxton Hall last night, it was a sea captain taking a sip from my drink while several other cast members did their theatrical warm-ups walking around the tittering audience.

Misrule – the central theme of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – was clear to see in the pantomime-like version dreamt up by the Salon Players.

The actors, dressed as if they had dived into a dressing-up box and picked out the first things they saw, set the tone for the show, circling the crowd in character five minutes before the play even started.

Music from different eras added to the topsy-turvy feel. Professional fool Feste, played by Kim Hardy who also doubled up as Sebastian, sang a ballad on an acoustic guitar, drunken aristocrats Sir Toby Belch (Dewi Hughes) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Neil Allen) sang White Christmas and Sorcha Finch-Murray as ensemble warbled music hall tunes in between scenes.

Michael Luke Walsh was perfectly cast as a camp Malvolio, the steward of Lady Olivia (Megan Hockley) who gets above his station, advising audience members to turn off their phone at the beginning and lording it over the other servants, as well as the foolish Sir Toby and Sir Andrew.

Shakespeare plays have a reputation for being hard to understand and his comedies unfunny to modern audiences. Twelfth Night, with its cross-dressing antics, love rectangles and its general air of madness, could be very confusing.

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Refreshingly, the Salon Players’ take on the festive classic is accessible and hilarious. I’ve seen versions of Twelfth Night several times before, but this is the first adaptation where I’ve laughed at all the jokes and understood every plot point, surely aided by the actors’ careful intonation when speaking their lines.

The Players’ “bawdy” evening version has a few 17th century rude jokes thrown in, but the matinee performance is family-friendly. If you think you can put up with perching on a rather uncomfortable wooden chair for two hours, the interactive performances and easy-to-follow plot makes this a fantastic alternative panto night out.

Twelfth Night is running until Saturday December 22 at Hoxton Hall with family friendly matinees at 2pm and an adult evening show at 8pm. To book call 020 7684 0060 or see