Monday, November 12, 2007

Performance Notes: Twelfth Night

Propeller Theatre Company, Old Vic
January 23, 2007
Directed: Ed Hall
Featuring: Tam Williams, Tony Bell, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Jason Baughan, Simon Scardifield

* The staging was lots of mirrors along the walls and two mirrored wardrobes that were used for entrances, exits, and sometimes hiding places, which I liked because there’s something about the idea of mirrors reflecting…that fits in with the idea of the play. Mirrors are supposed to show the truth, but even the clearest ones alter an image by flipping it, and the ones used on stage (whether for effect or practical reasons) we not clear, but slightly fun-house-esque. When Viola first views herself as Cesario, the reflection was unclear enough that you can imagine she is a boy (or a boy playing a girl…I’ll talk more about that later).

* Another bit of staging that was effective was using the glass coffin of Olivia’s brother both as a coffin and as part of the barroom revelry, because the play also has this duplicity of melancholy and festival running throughout. It was subtle, but I thought added to it. That same duplicitous nature could also be seen in the predominantly lavender and blue lighting, with only pierces on sunlight appearing to indicate daylight. As far as I remember, the only “fully lit” scene was the box tree scene.

* The parts of Fabian and Feste being combined made sense in this production since they gave Feste the role of being
something like a conductor of the whole show. To have him absent in the box tree scene would have been quite noticeable, and the only real scene where Fabian and Feste cross is when Malvolio’s letter is read at the end. I actually really like having Maria confess to having orchestrated the plot because, in general, I feel the “lower” class of this play have it more together than the nobility, so I liked having her take responsibility for her actions.

* The most obvious Elizabethan convention was, of course, having an all male cast. I thought it worked beautifully with Viola because you believed everyone in the play’s world seeing her as Cesario (since Viola actually was a boy), but you also felt the struggle. In general, I didn’t find it distracting for Maria and Olivia to be men, either. I think one of the reasons it worked was that neither appear until we’ve already had two scenes to immerse ourselves in the world of the play—we had time to suspend disbelief. What I’m really curious is to see is how this convention works in Taming, because that play has no cross-dressing. I don’t know that it will work as well, but we shall see.

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