News: East London Shakespeare Festival’s Twelfth Night comes to outdoor spaces this summer

Welcome to 1980s Illyria! East London Shakespeare Festival (ELSF) are bringing their rip-roaring take on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to outdoor spaces this summer. Combining the wonderful storytelling of the Bard with a flavour of East London culture, this new production brings pure, unadulterated escapism with live 80s classics in picturesque outdoor settings.

Transforming areas across Hackney, Waltham Forest and Redbridge into the world of Illyria, including the sensational Fellowship Square in Walthamstow, this production will give local residents a memorable and unique experience of Shakespeare’s much-loved classic tale. Come along to seek out a good time or to celebrate identity and self-discovery. A festival vibe is encouraged with gates opening an hour before the show, pre-show workshops including party headband-making and the opportunity to picnic on site.

Ursula Early, producer and co-director of ELSF, says I want to make fun, joyful work which is relevant and exciting to local East London Communities – my community – I was born in Hackney and have lived in Waltham Forest for 10 years. And to me Twelfth Night – and certainly the version we’re making – feels like the perfect show to headline our 2022 Festival. It feels reflective of the cultural vibe in East London and how it felt to ‘come-of-age’/grow-up here; it’s a wild-ride of exploration, partying, music, self-discovery, heartbreak, yearning and confusion – it just resonates with me, as it hopefully also will to the diverse London audiences we are making the show for.

Rosie Ward, producer and co-director of ELSF and Community Ensemble Director comments,

It has been wonderful to work on ELSF’s Twelfth Night this year and I am very excited to be working with our Community Ensemble as there is such scope for collaboration and chorus work – from the movement sequences of the shipwreck, to the music, to the character work to define the two distinct households of Illyria. Anyone can join our community ensemble, even my 3-month-old baby will be joining the cast, and the inclusive, community vibe is what ELSF is all about.

Scott Le Crass (Rose, Hope Mill Theatre/Sky Arts/Broadway HD; Elmer, UK and International Tour/Selladoor), Director of Twelfth Night continues to say, Twelfth Night was massively ahead of its time, with its exploration of gender, sexuality and identity. In 2022, these conversations have shifted. We want to celebrate the positive steps made forward with a production that is full of joy, colour and love.

The show has movement direction by Julia Cave (Home, I’m Darling, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds/Chipping Norton; Hamlet, Guildford Shakespeare Company), and design by George Alexander (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ELSF). Original music is composed by Amir Schoenfeld (Winner of the Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Award), as well as some 80s classics to get audiences dancing.

Riding the high from their magical sold-out production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2021, which earned an Off West End Award Nomination for Best Company, the ELSF merges the contemporary culture of East London with the inspirational storytelling of Shakespeare’s plays in outdoor parks and community spaces across the area.

The production will feature a community ensemble of local residents at the Waltham Forest venues, with Pay-What-You-Can performances and heavily reduced school matinees for local schools including a 20-minute pre-show workshop. The company are partnering with local performing arts college Big Creative to provide placements, and Crate St James to offer two Kickstart apprenticeships, offering invaluable behind-the-scenes insight, support with creative career options and new skills for students.

East London Shakespeare Festival presents Twelfth Night runs 16 June – 7 August 2022. Tickets are available from or on 020 7708 5401.


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