Twelfth Night, Twelve Girls

Words by Lisa Cooper

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Play Rehearsals, (yas queen)

Master’s student Lani Gerbi is creating more space for women in Adelaide’s theatre industry through her staged play reading of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy Twelfth Night, which features an all-girl cast.

The young ensemble cast of 12 girls will bring to life the tale of two twins, Viola and Sebastian, and the confusing love triangle that arises after Viola disguises herself as her twin brother to get closer to Orsino, the man she loves.

Twelfth Night is a comedy, but it has these really weird dark moments… we’ve fully gone with that. There’s a saying: “comedy is tragedy narrowly averted,” and Shakespeare narrowly avoids that,” Gerbi said.

The employment of an all-girl cast coincides with the play’s existing theme of gender-bending, rather another role reversal of the all-male casts historically featured in Shakespeare plays. It’s a purposeful directorial decision to create more roles and opportunities for women in theatre.

“It’s been something that I’ve wanted to try for a while… I have been an actress looking at amateur theatre in Adelaide, looking at auditions, and trying to find roles that weren’t just somebody’s wife or daughter. The opportunities just weren’t available for women,” Gerbi said.

Genevieve Venning, who plays the lead role of Viola in Gerbi’s adaptation, also explained the importance of creating a space for women in theatre.

“I want to see more plays written with women’s roles and more diverse characters…There are a lot of women that want to do theatre, but we’re not able to find the roles for it… so this was really good and something different to see,” Venning said.

Gerbi clearly loves a challenge. Not only did she volunteer to produce a play for the UATG Student Society within weeks, but to also create a full Renaissance costume drama. This play features costumes handmade by the cast and crew, as well as original songs written by actress Charlie Kay.

Despite her extensive history in theatre, Twelfth Night is Gerbi’s first experience as a director.

“I started doing drama in primary school, and never managed to give it up… my background is in acting and writing — directing sort of came from that,” Gerbi said.

Gerbi’s feminist adaptation on one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays is the next performance from the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild Student Society. The fast-paced play will be held in The Little Theatre in Union House from March 28 to March 30.

Venue: Little Theatre, Union House
Dates: March 28th — 30th
Time: 7.30pm
Tickets: $10, available at the door or online at

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