Backstage Twelfth Night

“I’ve done a few shows where I’ve done multi roles. None have been as challenging as this one in making sure I give enough of a contrast between Sebastian and Sir Andrew without giving a contrived account of the characters. The biggest challenge for the cast as a whole is knowing where the heck the church is in relation to the rehearsal space. Vik assures us that come tech we would know. We’re not so sure. But the most challenging thing for me is remembering that I actually have lines in the Malvolio gulling scene. Will I remember come opening night? As it stands, it’s 50/50.”

– Henry Wyrley-Birch
Henry Wyrley Birch

“Some of the greatest love affairs I’ve known have involved one actor – unassisted” – Wilson Mizner

It’s the penultimate week of rehearsals, and as you can imagine in a production like this, the cast are beginning to ask some serious questions of themselves. What was Shakespeare REALLY trying to communicate to me when he put in that half line? What is it that prompts my character to shift from prose to verse? Who in this room would I snog, marry or avoid?!? You know what actors are like – yes those things you heard are probably true – don’t judge.
Two weeks is more than enough time to make these crucial decisions, in fact, usually, minds are made up from the first rehearsal. We have the all important table read, which is a good time to show off any external character preparation we may have done, words we’ve looked up and a great opportunity to really size up the rest of the talent in the room! But this has been tough!
That rehearsal room is overflowing with talent in every sense of the word! So, after dipping my toe into this hot pit of intense emotions and, supreme artistry, I have decided, the best way to hedge my bets for a cheeky showmance is to write two snog marry avoid lists, one for myself and one for who I think my character would snog, marry or avoid were she in the room. I leave it to you to decide which is which!
Nick/Feste – A complete dark horse! A flash of those baby blues and those sweet dulcet tones leaves me weak at the knees! There is no saying no to anything he may ask – especially if he asks it through song.
It’s got to be Robert/Toby – we share a love of small platters of marine life in the morning – I’m seeing us, in bed of a Sunday, eating sardines on toast with loads of butter – what a catch!
One does not like to avoid anybody…buuuut nobody likes the smell of fried chicken and chips at 11.00 in the morning Tony/Malvolio! I wouldn’t say no though, if he tried to pop a little battered thigh in my mouth.
And now for…. Olivia/Olivia
Without a doubt Anne Marie/Maria, Pepter/Viola and myself would be like the Shakespearian equivalent to Destiny’s Child but we’d be kissing – we would rule the world. Fact.
What a gent Henry/Sebastian is. We have the same taste in cheese, chocolate and films so I’m pretty sure we’re a match made in heaven. I know that it won’t take much to convince him to marry me either!
Now, I am going to put my liver first on this one and avoid Julian/Orsino. A cheeky Count about town I don’t think I could keep up while maintaining a blood alcohol level of below 0.12%. There also aren’t enough carbonated drinks in the west end to rehydrate the both of us!
Amendment – 
Upon the discovery that Henry/Sebastian is partial to an egg mayonnaise bagel, I would hereby like to annul our marriage…and marry Julian/Orsino instead.
I have come to the conclusion that a life befouled by the stench of eggy sandwiches it too much to concede. So clear the table, bring on the body shots, I’ll take my chances on a dalliance with the demon drink!!
Olivia Onyehara – Olivia Onyehara

“Feste is a notoriously difficult character, even by Shakespeare’s standards: he doesn’t have any verse to guide the actor’s delivery, he speaks in riddles and he has about 300 songs, of varying styles. However, that is also what makes it such a fun challenge for the actor! As an itinerant worker he can wander freely between the two houses and is allowed to comment on the behaviour of the well-to-do, sometimes shining a light on their hypocrisy or pretension. And herein lies his power. Despite being a beggar, in a world of fools he is perhaps the wisest of them all…”

– Nick Howard-Brown

Nick Howard Brown


Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool…
…wrote Notorius B.I.G but the question on everybody’s lips, as so often is the case with performers, was “What are these lunches Biggie is eating and are they healthy?” No one knows, it’s a safe bet that they weren’t very healthy or at the very least were high in saturated fats. To stop people wondering what kind of lunches the Iris company were chomping down on during rehearsal I will endeavour to give you the scoop on the dishiest dishes we’ve all had for lunch.
It’s safe to say that we rehearsing just off of Brick Lane we all had our fair share of the bagels from the bagel shop. I was particularly fond of the sausage bagel with ketchup. The outer edge gave just enough resistance of a crunch while the centre of the bagel is soft and deliciously warm, mixed with the saucy sausages in the washing machine of my mouth to deliver a giant hit of dopamine telling me to buy three of them everyday for the first week. It seemed others in the cast like Nick went for a more salmon and cream cheese feel to their bagel.
We’re actors and we like to try and remain healthy after all our body is our instrument. I usually eat chicken breast with sweet potato for my lunch; low in carbohydrates, low in fat and high in dissatisfaction. Olivia, who is playing Olivia, has scrumptious salads for lunch with avocado, cucumber and salmon again, I’m seeing a trend with these actors, something fishy. In a time where we try and have healthy lunches and brunches to avoid a growing waistline there is no hope for the unhealthy treats. I mean Vik, our director, had the sheer audacity to bring in sugar free biscuits and I almost punched myself when I squealed with delight at the thought of sugar free biscuits. Yeah. My life is complete.
I’m supposed to be writing this blog about the most unhealthy lunches, possibly part of some sort of shaming programme, much similar to McCarthy’s red scare. But. I applaud those who flaunt their unhealthy lunches and snacks and believe they should be put on the pedestal they deserve. Tony, the hero, during a fifteen minute break ran outside to find the nearest chicken shop and treated himself to a fried thigh and some chips as “a snack” because “I missed breakfast”. The time; 11am. Tony I salute you and wish I had the courage you have. Henry let me in on an addiction of his yesterday. A chocolate addiction. It started in the kitchen when I saw he had three chocolate bars of three different brands. He went for the 3 for £1.20 deal. Legend. He told me that during his days at university he would buy two bags of Malteasers (I don’t like them myself) on the way home; eating one before bed and in the morning as he reached to turn off his alarm he would grab the second bag and munch it down for breakfast. Henry I don’t believe in the type of chocolate you eat but I will defend to the death your right to eat it a 7am. And I support any chocolate addiction unless it leads to crime, like selling your sisters shoes for chocolate and Haribo money, a dark time in Henry’s past which he is more than happy to discuss with you at the bar.
Let those who don’t give a toss to health live longer than the smug ones who eat their healthy trendy lunches. Let the fried chicken, chocolate ball, sugar packed biscuit eaters live long and prosper. Biggie wasn’t sitting by a pool eating nicoise salad with lemon water and sweet potato fries. He was eating artery stuffing, cholesterol raising fried food and it made him huge, not just literally but metaphorically as he became on of the best rappers of all time. I’m going to walk down the road right now and buy fried chicken and you all should too.
– Julian Moore-Cook
Julian Moore-Cook (2) copy

“What I find exciting about Viola is the boldness she has as a character. Not only is she able to get herself out of the life threatening situation of being shipwrecked, but she manages to carve out a rather pleasant life for herself. She has a fearlessness as Cesario when addressing people above her status, which I think both Orsino and Olivia welcome and is an aspect that they like about her.”

– Pepter Buyungo

Pepter Lunkuse

The first day of rehearsals is always a little nerve wracking like the first day of school. Inevitably there are people you know but also new people to meet and get to know. The advantage for us this morning was that we were a company united in our joy of being able to share, speak and hear the words of Shakespeare.

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It was a pleasure to hear the play read out by my very talented company who are going to breathe brilliant life to our production of Twelfth Night. I look forward to the laughs and discoveries!


– Vik Sivalingam





Read all about our Twelfth Night company and creatives here.

WELCOME ONE AND ALL! We will be updating directly from the creative team and cast working on Twelfth Night by Iris Theatre this summer! Keep up to date with all the madness in Illyria here