Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare) – Bell Shakespeare production at the Playhouse Theatre (Sydney Opera House)
This was not what you might call a subtle production. For me, Twelfth Night is primarily a poetic love story, in which the Malvolio subplot interferes. This director obviously preferred to emphasise the bawdy aspects of the play. Feste, in particular, was rather more crass than I would have liked â€“ though I canâ€™t deny he was funny.
Iâ€™m not a huge fan of Twelfth Night done in modern dress. However, allowing for this, I did quite like some of the costuming choices. Sir Andrew as sort of would-be tough punk was fun, as was Orsino listening through earphones to music on an MP3 player (although I wouldnâ€™t have said it had a â€œdying fallâ€). I also rather liked the rent-a-cop look of Orsinoâ€™s guards. Viola managed to look very much like a scruffy teenage boy, which was effective in some scenes, but did lead one to wonder what Olivia found to fall in love with. I was unpleasantly reminded of the American court case about the teacher who had entered into a relationship with a 14-year-old (?) student.
The production opened with Viola and Sebastian in the storm. They used real water, but unfortunately, because they obviously couldnâ€™t flood the whole stage, it looked rather more like Viola and Sebastian under the shower. It was actually a lot more effective at the end, when they reused the apparatus to make it rain on Feste as he finished singing â€œWind and the Rainâ€.
I didnâ€™t find any of the performances particularly outstanding, though neither were they particularly bad. I probably enjoyed Genevieve Hegneyâ€™s Olivia the most. I thought Viola was very patchy, but then she is my absolute favourite heroine in all of Shakespeare, and I have some very firm ideas about her character, so I suppose I was bound to be disappointed. Nevertheless, I donâ€™t think Caroline Craig is any threat to my two all-time favourite Violas â€“ Felicity Kendal (1980 BBC TV production) and Imogen Stubbs (1996 film).
The production emphasised the broad humour, and somewhat de-emphasised the poetry, of the play. Not really my preferred balance, but nonetheless an enjoyable evening at the theatre.