The Argus: Brighton Festival Fringe launches today

With a cold May predicted, Festival Shakespeare have lucked in with their chilly adaptation of Twelfth Night – Illyria here is an island off the west coast of Scotland.

The Hebridean otherness – think Whisky Galore! – suits Shakespeare’s inverted, twisting romantic comedy well. There’s a certain magic to the sparse setting, with the audience in the middle of the action, taking in folksy arrangements of the Bard’s songs, an abundance of thick accents, tweed and, yes, whisky.

Much of the booze is knocked back by Doug Devaney and Matt Carrington, who make for a likeable Toby and Andrew. Their camaraderie with Jenny Rowe’s witty Maria and Seth Morgan’s subtle Feste is believable and full of enjoyable interplay.

As the pompous Malvolio, Simon Helyer is a natural comic, particularly good when “decoding” the love letter he believes to be from his mistress, Olivia, and imagining his rise to greatness. His later imprisonment is dealt with cleverly, though disappointingly his big exit – “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!” – seems a little rushed.

In the central role, the superb Kitty Newbury makes for a sparky Viola and a charming, committed Cesario. She works particularly well with Joanna Rosenfeld’s excellent Olivia, who abandons her façade of mourning with girlish glee, at one point literally throwing herself at the bemused messenger “boy”.

The actors work hard to project against noise from traffic, birds and philistinic passers-by, and as darkness falls they do well to successfully maintain momentum and intensity, despite the reduced vision. It’s a production that’s well worth wrapping up warm for.