This week I am reading Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It’s one of the later comedies. The tone is very light and comfortable. There is very little danger. By the second act the audience knows how the plot will be resolved when Sebastian appears.
There is a melancholy streak in the clown Feste and his songs.
The aristocrat leads, Orsino and Olivia are moody and in their own heads. Orsino could be a Lord Byron or a Jim Morrison.
Unlike earlier comedies, in this play the heroes’ obstacles are mostly in their heads rather than external.
There’s a theme of Viola and Feste moving between worlds and revealing characters’ internal selves. It makes me think of Promethea or Greek gods entering the world in disguise. I can imagine a modern psychedelic production.
The Globe – Twelfth Night – 2012
This is an all male stage production. It’s funnier than any other production and the humor broader. Stephen Fry makes a sympathetic Malvolio. The male actor playing Olivia makes the character’s flaws more obvious. The comic portrayal makes it more obvious that Olivia gets punished like the other characters, and maybe deserves it, too.
In front of the audience these productions are always funnier. The “awws” from the audience for Malvolio are amusing.
BBC – Twelfth Night – 1980
This production makes the words and the drama much more clear. I understood what the play was about after watching this version. Orsinio is really moody and looks like a ’70s rock star. Viola is almost puckish, like an elf from another world that’s going to teach mortal people a lesson.
Interesting that Trevor Peacock plays Feste, then goes on to play Titus Andronicus a few years later.
Trevor Nunn – Twelfth Night – 1996
The Olivia in this production seems to be made for the part. Just the right amount of gloomy vanity at first and manic energy later.
Some of the lines are cut to make the dialogue faster and cinematic. However, the lines where Antonio explains that he did not kill Orsino’s men is cut out and that changes the character significantly.
Withnail is a thin-faced gull.