Twelfth Night, Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford, 21 July 2012
The world of this production was a hotel somewhere vaguely hot. The reception was positioned upstage left with a revolving entrance door further left by the proscenium wall. Over on the right stood a lift shaft with a working cabin. A small circular sofa was placed centre stage around a post that occasionally lit up as a sea beacon. The downstage right water feature was now clear blue water above which was fixed a low diving board.
After the sound of crashing waves, Viola (Emily Taaffe) emerged from the water and pulled herself up onto the stage, where she sat dripping wet (1.1). She turned to see a bag that presumably contained some of Sebastian’s clothes.
She knelt and, looking at no one in particular, said “What country, friends, is this?” Her words were immediately followed by Orsino’s famous opening lines to Curio (Ankur Bahl), who played at the piano. Orsino (Jonathan McGuiness) looked like an expat resident of a tropical country. The object of Orsino’s love, the mournful Olivia (Kirsty Bushell), was visible lying motionless and depressed on a bed on the steeply sloping planks of the back wall. This gave us a glimpse of how she was spending her seven years in solitary mourning.
The action cut back to the shore where the Captain (Sandy Grierson) replied to Viola’s initial question. She continued to face the audience, looking out to sea as she compared Illyria and Elysium (1.2). Viola took up the bag of clothes intending to use them for her disguise.
Returning to the hotel, we saw drunk expat Sir Toby (Nicholas Day) slouched in an armchair, talking to West-Indian maid Maria (Cecilia Noble) (1.3). Race became an issue subsequently, so the colour casting was relevant.
After a standard buttery bar joke, in which Maria clasped Sir Andrew’s (Bruce Mackinnon) hands to her ample chest and talked at him lasciviously, we saw his “back-trick”, which was a moonwalk. This modern device was a perfect fit for the phrase. A CD player was set up enabling Sir Andrew to dance like a lunatic, performing a series of high kicks.
Viola was transformed into Cesario with short hair, wearing a jacket and green trousers (1.4). She was dispatched by Orsino to woo Olivia after avowing “myself would be his wife”. Her brother Sebastian (Stephen Hagan) crawled out of the water and lay curled up at its edge all the way through the next scene until his first appearance.
Feste (Kevin McMonagle) was slightly disappointing (1.5). He was played as a faded club singer lacking in both humour and impact.
Maria stood in front of Feste and aped his ‘two points’ gag as if it were one of his tired, predictable old jokes.
Lesley Bushell’s Olivia was one of highlights of production, full of self-deprecating auto-correction and feminine wiles. To have her and Jonathan Slinger’s Malvolio on stage at the same time was an overload of talent.
Feste proved Olivia to be a fool for mourning her dead brother. But she was interested in Malvolio’s opinion, which gave us our first taste of Jonathan Slinger’s steward.
Malvolio’s self-importance was indicated by the name badge on his suit jacket, and there was something vain about his blond flat-combed hair and moustache.
He sneered disdainfully in a whining nasal voice and delighted in pausing over certain syllables, stringing them out as if to prolong the joy of contempt.
His first “Yes,” was followed by a pause in which he glanced down before continuing as if Feste was beneath regard. Malvolio twitched with pleasure, describing Feste as a “barren rascal” in a scornful tirade delivered at close range.
The arrival of Cesario was notified to Olivia by Maria, who was on the reception desk monitoring the CCTV cameras. Sir Toby was blind drunk and could hardly make his words distinct.
Cesario was admitted and found four women sat wearing veils, including Olivia who was poised by a chess set downstage. Cesario was already wistfully full of longing when she said “I am not that I play”. When disguised as a boy, Viola spoke with an Irish accent.
Cesario’s request to see Olivia’s face drew an initial disparaging response, but then Olivia continued without a pause into “but we will draw the curtain”. She now sounded quite vain and pleased to be asked to reveal herself. This was the beginning of her subsequent flirtatiousness.
By the time she asked Cesario to visit again she sounded very keen on him.
But after Cesario left through the revolving door, Olivia held her head and looked down at the ground muttering “What is your parentage?” as if upbraiding herself for her gaucheness. She had indeed caught the plague.
Referring to the entrance point for Cesario’s “perfections”, the text’s “mine eyes” was changed to “mine eye” as Olivia crouched and put her hand over her lap. This reference to her other “eye” indicated the carnal nature of her yearning.
Olivia took a ring off her own finger in front of Malvolio, telling him to return it to Cesario. Malvolio took the ring and said “Madam [huge pause], I will” as if he had been entrusted with a life-changing task.
Her final speech in the scene referred to “Mine eye” being “too great a flatterer for my mind”. This phrase was given a similar meaning to the earlier emended instance, as Olivia crouched evidently consumed by the passion generated by her “eye”.
Sebastian, who had been reclined all this time, stood up for his scene with Antonio (Jan Knightley), who was wearing seafaring waterproofs (2.1). The centre column became a flashing beacon. Just like his sister, Sebastian had a distinct Irish accent. Why both he and Viola were made Irish was not apparent. Antonio ran after Sebastian, but no overt love was hinted at.
Cesario greeted people with a vigorous hand slap, a gesture that his friends also subsequently extended to a confused Sebastian.
Cesario entered, on his way to report to Orsino (2.2). A beeping sound was heard from offstage, which was soon revealed to be Malvolio catching up with him on an electric cart. The cart had a sign on the back announcing that it was “for management use only”: another indication of Malvolio’s officiousness.
As Malvolio handed over the ring, he stretched the word out on its ‘n’ so that it was pronounced “Rinnnng”. He threw it to the ground and then got back on his chariot, slammed the mirror back into position and drove off.
Cesario realised that she was ‘the man’. But she certainly did not look so in comparison with her much taller brother.
Sir Toby and Sir Andrew were drunk (2.3) and were joined by Feste who sat in the lift to descends to their level. The picture of ‘we three’ was taken using a Polaroid camera. In a very funny sequence, Feste played “O mistress mine” on an electric keyboard while Sir Toby put a veil over his face pretending to be Olivia and let Sir Andrew hold his hand.
Their main rowdy song “Hold thy peace” was sung to an accompaniment of bottles and glasses being struck as well as the hotel reception bell, all of which prompted Maria to complain.
Malvolio entered in a dressing gown (also with name badge) and gartered socks, something which looked slyly forward to his subsequent gulling. Sir Andrew fell into the water in surprise at this interruption.
It was very obvious that far from being annoyed Malvolio actually relished this opportunity to be unpleasant.
He drew out the name “Sirrrr Toobyyy” to make his contempt crystal clear. The object of his derision spoke about keeping time into Feste’s mic, which amplified his voice, and then pointed the mic at Malvolio. The first few words of the steward’s reply were also amplified until he pushed it away. The others continued to sing their replies into it.
Before departing, Malvolio shook Maria’s hand. But this apparently friendliness was immediately shown to be a sham when he wiped his hand on his dressing gown.
Maria sat and paused to take in this gratuitous unkindness. Her motivation for tricking Malvolio was now very clear. Given the circumstances, her response was restrained.
Maria’s reference to her scheme being “a horse of that colour” could be seen in this context as the result of her mind dwelling on Malvolio’s colour prejudice and influencing her choice of words.
Sir Andrew’s “I was adored once too” was poignant. This moment of pathos at the end of a comic sequence never fails to look like an authorial masterstroke.
The next scene had an innocuous beginning (2.4). A hotel employee used a net to clean the pool, while a guard cut short a mobile call because of the excessive cost, all of which suggested we were in a faraway place.
Cesario’s longing for Orsino was present but carefully suppressed in the speech in which she alluded to fancying someone like him.
Feste’s clowning was underplayed and not that funny. There was an apparent intention to make him consistently downbeat.
When Cesario told Orsino that she was “All the daughters of my father’s house”, the pang in her voice made it feel she was coming very close to revealing her true identity.
The gulling of Malvolio took place inside the hotel (2.5). Fabian (Felix Hayes) and the others hid behind the reception desk, while the letter was placed on the chess board.
Malvolio came downstage to admire himself in an invisible mirror, part of the ‘fourth wall’ that was transparent to the audience. He straightened what could have been a hairpiece.
Full of himself, he stood with his legs apart longing “To be Count Malvolio!” Sir Toby gathered up things to throw at him but was successively disarmed by Sir Andrew who snatched the items from his raised hand.
Malvolio took a fur rug from the floor and placed it about his neck like a gown of state. He picked up the letter, but before ripping open the seal, he looked around furtively, causing the others to duck down behind the reception.
There are many ways of making a joke out of Malvolio’s reaction to the letter’s instruction to “Revolve”. This production produced hilarity by having Malvolio run off to the revolving door and spin round in it. On returning centre stage he dropped his clipboard.
Firmly convinced that Olivia was in love with him, he stamped on the mislaid clipboard, signifying the end of his lowly status. He jumped up on to the chair and stood triumphantly.
Cesario had a brief conversation with Feste who was playing on his keyboard (3.1). Olivia and Maria entered down the steps stage right. As she descended, Olivia looked at the audience and said “beautiful” as an added aside. This addition was perhaps meant to hint at her subconscious realisation that Cesario was in fact female.
Olivia was self-deprecatingly apologetic about the ring trick. She knelt before Cesario when saying that “a cypress, not a bosom, hideth my heart” and seized on pity being “as a degree to love”.
She kissed Cesario at “Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.” Cesario was shocked and the rest of Olivia’s speech was turned into an excuse for her rashness. On that dramatic change in their relationship, the interval came.
The second half got underway on a comic note as Sir Andrew grumbled his way to the front of the stage and got out his mobile to book a “taxi to the airport please” in an interesting adlib (3.2). His overarching lack of seriousness seemed to license his deviations from the text.
The text’s line about “I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician” was changed to something like “am I a politician?” at which the audience chortled.
Sir Toby indicated that he would not deliver Sir Andrew’s message by throwing his friend’s phone into the water. Then Maria came with news of Malvolio’s approach.
After a brief scene with Sebastian and Antonio (3.3), Malvolio made his grand entrance via the lift (3.4). He wore very tight tights with yellow garters across them. They were so constrictive that they obliged him to waddle as he could not flex his knees. As Olivia looked on aghast, he stood and pulled apart the top of his jacket to reveal a yellow gartered codpiece. His “Sweet lady, ho, ho” was hysterical. The obstruction in the blood was in the codpiece. And predictably even this get-up was adorned with a name tag.
As soon as Olivia had said “Wilt thou go to bed, Malvolio?” she turned away and put her head in her hands as she realised the full import of her words. This was something Olivia did a lot, immediately upbraiding herself for her inappropriate utterances and actions.
Malvolio kissed his hand, warranting Olivia’s comment to that effect. He chased Olivia onto the diving board, accosting her before she ran off to find Cesario. Malvolio was left alone to construe Olivia’s reactions as agreeing with the faked letter.
Sir Toby and the others returned and used a crucifix to fend off Malvolio. The steward climbed the stairs showing the bare bum cheeks exposed by his thong. This provoked a second wave of audience laughter at this extra indignity.
At her next meeting with Cesario, Olivia hung a miniature around her neck and was coquettish in requesting him to “come again tomorrow”.
When Cesario and Sir Andrew were eventually brought together in combat, Fabian had to restrain him from escaping, while Sir Toby pointed Sir Andrew in his direction pretending that he was in fact aching to break free and fight with him.
In another quaint rewrite, Sir Andrew offered to give Cesario his Kawasaki 750, rather than his “horse, grey Capulet”.
The pair met as Sir Andrew wielded a metal rod and Cesario swatted at him with a similar implement. Antonio ran in and fended off Sir Andrew before being arrested. His mention of Sebastian set Viola thinking.
Sir Andrew tried to fight Sebastian but he more than defended himself and hit back (4.1). Olivia, now in a floral dress rather than dark clothes, mistook him for Cesario, though given the height difference this began to look improbable.
Maria dressed Feste as a priest at the top of lift shaft (4.2). The stage below was kept in darkness. As the lift cage descended, it was possible to see that the floor numbers had changed to indicate a descent into the hotel basement.
The lights came up on Malvolio, tied up on the seat of his cart with the “for management use only” sign round his neck in mockery of his position. The cart lights flashed as it beeped plaintively. Sir Topas used jump leads to torture Malvolio, an echo of their use by Slinger as Dr Pinch.
Malvolio’s tormenter went back up in the lift and descended again as Feste.
The morning after his night with Olivia, Sebastian stood on the stairs at the side of the stage (4.3). Olivia entered in a white wedding dress accompanied by a Greek Orthodox priest (Sandy Grierson again), which provided a slightly more accurate fix on the production’s location. Her dress provided hilarious context for her line “Blame not this haste of mine”.
Orsino, in the company of Cesario, arrived with flowers and a gift for Olivia (5.1). Antonio was escorted through, but precisely why he was in a hotel lobby remained to be seen.
Olivia entered, took Orsino’s gifts and threw them in the water, which made sense of Orsino’s description of her as “Still so cruel”.
Orsino’s verbal threat against Cesario was not accompanied by any violent action. It appeared to be just words. Orsino exited through the revolving door and Cesario followed. willing to die “a thousand deaths” for him. Olivia’s cry of “Husband” made Cesario stop and turn, while Orsino repeated the word as a question.
Sir Andrew and Sir Toby entered injured. Sebastian ran in from the side door right to the centre to face Olivia. Viola was by the reception desk and looked at him from behind, completely stunned.
Orsino could see both of them sideways on. Olivia sat down to utter “Most wonderful!”
Sebastian turned to face Viola. They approached and exchanged stories. Sebastian commented to Olivia that she had been “mistook” in a tone that implied her stupidity. When he said that she would have been “Betrothed both to a maid and man”, Viola curtsied sheepishly. Orsino was understandably very happy.
Olivia seemed genuinely confused when calling for Malvolio to be brought forth. Feste just made a barking noise when reading Malvolio’s letter.
Orsino and Olivia hugged, which was nice. She also hugged Viola, pausing slightly beforehand to express the irony of their sisterly embrace.
Orsino repeated “If music be the food of love” and put some music on the hotel sound system, but this brief jollity was interrupted by the entrance of Malvolio.
Dressed in trousers, braces and shirtless, Malvolio swore his revenge. He cast his eyes around the entire audience, emphasising the all-encompassing scope of his malevolence.
Feste sang as the couples went to bed. Olivia went first, then Viola, followed by Orsino and Sebastian.
This was the production that best fitted the Shipwreck Trilogy label, with an accident at sea in its immediate backstory. This was underlined by having Viola actually emerge from water onto the stage at the start of the performance.
Technically, the ship in The Tempest is not even wrecked. It only appears so to the crew and passengers as is preserved intact, enabling its occupants to sail home at the end of the play. The wreck in the Comedy of Errors is so far in the past as to make it largely irrelevant to the slapstick action.
The production was chiefly memorable for Jonathan Slinger’s manic Malvolio, a performance to savour in the context of other roles he has played, and the engaging presence of Kirsty Bushell’s Olivia.
Twelfth Night, The Globe, 28 April 2012
Given the cold and wet conditions it was not surprising that The Company Theatre of Mumbai had arranged for two heaters to be placed at the back of the Globe stage.
Three musicians sat with a harmonium, hand drum and small percussion instruments upstage relying on the heaters for warmth. The cast sat behind them, coming forward when required and occasionally commenting on the action when seated. The performance itself took place forward of the Globe’s twin stage pillars.
Based on traditional Indian street theatre, this Hindi production, directed by Atul Kumar, provided the broad outline of the story interspersed with music and dance.
The performance began with a lively song, not the doleful music that might have been expected. We were introduced to Orsino (Sagar Deshmukh) in who strode around in a red coat, gesticulating with the brash, confident gestures of a ruler.
Orsino caught sight of Olivia (Mansi Multani), elegant in her sari and still mourning her dead brother. She rebuffed his advances, plunging Orsino into the downbeat mood of the start of the play.
The shipwrecked Viola (Geetanjali Kulkarni) found herself surrounded by the rest of the cast and was transformed onstage into Cesario. A binding was pulled up over her chest and her hair was put into a bandana. She drew a moustache on her upper lip and swaggered around in her pantaloons like a young man.
We were introduced to Toby (Gagan Riar), who sported a rakish mop of shaggy hair; Andrew (Mantra Mugdha) was more soigné, while Maria (Trupti Khamkar) in a blue sari wagged her finger disapprovingly at the men’s antics.
Orsino had difficulty in pronouncing Cesario’s name when dispatching the newly-hired youth to woo Olivia on his behalf. But the disguised Viola’s affection for her employer was made very evident when, in a parting embrace, she firmly clasped both her hands round Orsino’s bottom rather than his back: a cue for Orsino to glance in surprise at the audience.
A mischievous female Feste (Neha Saraf) mocked Olivia for mourning her brother, and managed to make her smile when explaining why she should be happy. Malvolio (Saurabh Nayyar) looked suitably dour in his black coat.
Cesario gained admittance to speak to Olivia, but found the entire cast under veils so that Olivia could not be distinguished. When she finally showed herself, Olivia took a shine to Cesario, asking him about his family background. We heard the English phrase “very good family”, which Olivia repeated nervously as the love bug began to bite.
After Cesario left, Olivia expressed her infatuation with him in an elegant sequence comprising of gestures and eye movements from classical Indian dance. She darted her eyes coquettishly from side to side in a way that needed no interpretation.
Sebastian (Amitosh Nagpal) stepped out of the world of the play to talk to the audience, complaining that Shakespeare had only written a few lines for him and that many of them had been cut by the director. He apologised that his friend Antonio had been unable to come.
Malvolio caught up with Cesario to offer him a ring sent by the love-struck Olivia. Having been rebuffed, Malvolio threw the gift to the ground muttering “Beggars can’t be choosers”.
The stage band provided a variety of songs enabling Toby and Andrew to party. Eventually the entire cast were singing, creating enough noise to summon Malvolio who shut them up.
Maria and Feste responded by threatening the steward with kung fu poses. Not surprisingly, Maria wanted her revenge and the plot to humiliate Malvolio was laid.
Another tête-à-tête between Orsino and Cesario ended in Orsino kneeling and hugging his servant. His face ended up pressed close to the disguised Viola’s bound breast, causing Orsino to cast another surprised look.
Productions of Twelfth Night traditionally put great effort into the gulling scene and this one was no exception.
Toby, Andrew and Maria waited on the balcony, while Malvolio wandered the stage musing to himself about keeping Toby as a pet. He mimed stroking Toby in the palm of his hand, prompting loud complaints from the offended Toby on the balcony.
Maria put down the forged love letter for him to find and soon the entire cast was following Malvolio as he read from it. He used the English word “destiny” when contemplating his future life with Olivia.
As Malvolio continued, the cast stood to one side rocking backwards and forwards in time to the music, sometimes crowding round him.
Olivia responded to Cesario’s second visit with a display of very devoted and tactile affection, making it necessary for Viola to fold her arms strategically to prevent Olivia’s wandering hands from discovering her chest.
So far the performance had been broad brush comedy. But the mood suddenly changed. Left alone on the stage, Viola paused, ran round the back of a pillar, and then came forward to kneel at the edge of the yard. She silently let her hair down to become a woman again and gently lay on her side.
This corresponded to the sequence in which she rues the impossibility of her love for Orsino: “I have one heart, one bosom and one truth”. On that touching note, the interval came.
At the start of the second half a third heater had appeared on stage. But the action was hotting up anyway as Toby incited Andrew to duel with his love rival Cesario.
Spoken Hindi is often spotted with English phrases. And here, the quite natural occurrence of words such as “sorry”, “follow me”, “destiny” aided comprehension. But now a more extensive passage of English was used to comic effect.
A second appearance from Sebastian allowed actor Amitosh Nagpal to tell us in English that he was the translator of play, which he described as a “thankless task”. But loud cheers and whoops from the audience immediately proved his statement incorrect.
The other great comic set piece in this play is the appearance of the transformed Malvolio. At first he appeared quite normal, but then disappeared briefly offstage to return in transparent yellow stockings over dark underpants with his jacket unbuttoned.
Malvolio pursued the frightened Olivia and sat her on his knee, squeezing her mouth into a comical pucker and moving her head from side to side.
Maria and company danced in celebration of their success.
Toby had great fun winding up both Cesario and Andrew to get them to fight, telling Cesario that his ineffectual companion was like a “serial killer”, and forcing Andrew to do press-ups as last minute training. Their final confrontation saw them merely glance past each other.
Sebastian finally got to take part in the action of the play by becoming the object of Olivia’s attentions as she mistook him for Cesario.
As her seduction progressed, Sebastian gleefully went along, grinning at the audience. Olivia half swooned with love, and as her eyes were closed, Sebastian took his chance and tried to undo her top. Unfortunately for Sebastian the garment resisted.
This being a cut-down version of the play, Malvolio’s imprisonment and further gulling were not staged. The character of Antonio was also absent enabling the performance to race towards its conclusion.
Olivia flirted with Cesario in a continuation of her earlier dalliance with Sebastian, arousing Orsino’s jealousy.
This was interrupted by the arrival of Toby and Andrew who had been fighting with Sebastian. Viola’s brother now stood at the other end of stage to her.
The shock of recognition led to the joy of reunion. But this was interrupted by the return of Malvolio who complained of his maltreatment.
Cesario left the stage and returned in Viola’s clothes with her hair down. She and Orsino, Olivia and Sebastian, Toby and Maria exchanged garlands in a marriage ceremony. Poor Malvolio offered his garland to the audience, but with no takers he simply put it round his own neck.
Feste returned and the famous (and particularly apt) “for the rain it raineth every day” saw her put her hand out beyond the protective cover of the stage roof into actual rain.
A final song brought an incredibly fun performance to a close.
Twelfth Night, Cottesloe Theatre, 12 February 2011
The programme for Peter Hall’s Twelfth Night reproduced his introduction to the 1960 Folio Society edition of the play. His thoughts on the piece apparently needed no updating, so that what he wrote 51 years ago could stand for his account of the play today.
It was also back to the future with the visual look of the production. Just like Peter Hall’s 1958 staging, this Twelfth Night had an autumnal setting and Caroline era costumes.
The lack of any radical novelty in the direction indicated that Peter Hall saw this production not as an opportunity to explore the possibilities of theatre, but more as a chance to pay homage to the simply beauty of the play’s language.
Long-term saturation in Shakespeare’s texts may have convinced him that although their language is only really alive in performance, the plays should never be staged in a way that trumps the pure eloquence of their poetry.
The stage of the Cottesloe was thus bare apart from a scattering of leaves at the sides and back. A brown leaf-patterned canopy hung over it providing an extra autumnal dimension.
The verse-speaking was slow and deliberate with distinct pauses at the end of each line. The characters speaking verse, most notably those at the Duke’s court, tended to stand around in formal groups in their red Caroline era costumes. A parallel was created between the delivery of the poetry and the restrained elegance of its visual setting.
This heightened awareness of the verse was then set off against the unconstrained pace and energy of the prose, so that this aspect of the play also became a prominent feature. Some productions rush and gabble indiscriminately through verse and prose. This one paid homage to the verse and in so doing showed us the prose as a distinct stylistic choice rather than a colourless default option.
When Simon Callow’s Sir Toby was in full flow, his rough, ruddy gargoyle of a figure bowed and creeped his way around the stage, bellowing out his lines at speed to form a stark contrast with the leisurely, wistful restraint of the Duke’s court.
Here the language was the star and given utmost prominence. If the production were to have a guiding theme or motto it would have been “We Love These Words”.
As the house lights went down at the start of the performance, the shadowy figures of Orsino and his courtiers moved into position. When the stage lights went up they bowed respectfully to their Duke who languished on reddish cushions beneath the autumn brown canopy.
The orchestra played in a gallery stage left while a single flautist also performed onstage to provide a recipient for Orsino’s comments about the music. The Duke paused after “and so die” allowing the musicians to play on. His comment about ‘that strain again’ then referred to a distinct passage of music, which was repeated at his command.
Orsino’s languid appreciation of the language of the music was mirrored in our equally languid appreciation of the music of the language in which he spoke.
As the scene continued the sedate pace of the dialogue also helped to clarify the exposition. But at the same time the slowness of the delivery and the autumnal colour scheme worked together to create an air of melancholy.
Bright lights flashed behind the canopy at the start of 1.2 whereupon it lowered completely to the ground to provide us with our first glimpse of Viola. She walked across the canopy looking extremely wet and bedraggled. Rebecca Hall gave us some more slow verse speaking and an indication that her Viola was wide-eyed and innocent.
With the canopy back in position, a table and chairs were brought on for 1.3. Simon Callow’s Sir Toby slouched in the darkness before the stage lights went up on his crumpled figure. Maria entered and woke him from his drunken slumber, pulling on one of his braces.
The characters spoke in fast-paced prose creating a complete change of mood in a deliberate contrast to what had gone before.
The absolute relish which Simon Callow brought to his portrayal of the dissolute Sir Toby was a joy to watch.
His foil, Sir Andrew, dressed in blue with Cavalier hair, was inept in his accosting skills. Spurred on by Sir Toby, he made a faltering advance but soon found his hand clamped to Maria’s breast for the buttery bar sequence, in which Olivia’s maid showed herself to be Sir Andrew’s confident superior.
That strain again
Some fun was had with Sir Andrew and Sir Toby trying out various styles of dancing to comic effect. When Simon Callow said “My walk should be a very jig” he sashayed down stage as if inspired by some unheard Latin music. But it was left to Sir Andrew to provide the greatest amusement as his attempts at a caper resulted in an inelegant strain, an unscripted oath being muttered under his breath.
Back in the formal world of the court, in 1.4 we saw Rebecca Hall dressed as Cesario for the first time. She was dressed in the identical red Caroline era costume as the male courtiers, her long hair was left down to match the current male style.
Her Viola/Cesario was physically gawky and reacted to her new condition with a nonchalance bordering on flippancy. Her statement at the end of the scene “myself would be his wife” was delivered with the same awkwardness. Viola could not quite believe what was happening to her, but found it slightly funny all the same.
David Ryall’s Feste was the complete opposite to Viola. He was old and worldly-wise in a dirty coat and drooping coxcomb. This characterisation was an excellent idea, as his fooling could be seen as the wisdom of long experience instead of empty, nervous joking.
Maria enjoyed getting the punch line to his joke about the two points/falling gaskins in 1.5. Feste read the motto by “Quinapalus” from the inside of his hat as if it had been inscribed there for reference purposes.
Olivia and Malvolio both wore black outfits; the former because in mourning, the latter out of a severity of mind. Malvolio’s response to Feste’s fooling about Olivia’s brother was cold but confident.
Sir Toby’s drunken entry provided another opportunity for Simon Callow to show us his excellent turn at sottish acting.
Olivia veiled herself, Maria and one of her attendants creating a trio to greet Cesario, who got down on one knee to deliver Orsino’s message. But despite her ceremonious gesture, she spoke her part as if not quite believing in it. This seemed to prompt Olivia’s question “Are you a comedian?” Cesario broke off from her address, becoming less formal, to ask who was the lady of the house.
She enjoyed bantering nautical terminology with Maria, who was trying to get her to leave, as if playing with language was coming naturally to someone whose entire mission was to deliver a message she could not utter with any sincerity.
Olivia’s reactions to Cesario were muted during their conversation. There was no immediate sign that she had been smitten with him. Only a slight flicker of interest was visible when she invited the young man to return to her. Her subsequent avowal of her love was restrained.
Lady Gentleman in red
Sebastian appeared at the start of 2.1 in the same red outfit worn by Cesario. Totally lacking in boyishness that might have prompted confusion between the siblings, Sebastian would always be distinguishable from his sister by his five o’clock shadow and builder’s jaw. There was no visible attempt to eroticise his relationship with Antonio.
Malvolio caught up with Cesario in 2.2 and handed over Olivia’s ring with his characteristic prissy disdain. Viola seemed to see the funny side of Olivia’s fancy for her. When the realisation hit her, she shifted her weight from foot to foot in her now characteristic ungainly manner.
Viola said “I.. am the man” in bemused disbelief with the pause as indicated. Her final couplet about time untangling the knot was spoken quite calmly and not with any kind of frustration.
It was as if she was experiencing Illyria in the same dream-like terms that her brother Sebastian later makes explicit. If so, then this was a very cleverly drawn psychological bond that the separated siblings were sharing.
The stage was dark for the entry of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew in 2.3, both of them drunk. As they sat round a dining table, Feste joined them and posed between them when referring to the picture of “we three”.
Sir Andrew’s description of Feste’s fooling was marred by his intoxicated mispronunciation of the names involved.
When Feste sang his love song, Sir Toby listened with a wistful mien as if recalling happy memories, while the less experienced Sir Andrew exuded an air of hopeful expectation as if relishing only a distant, future prospect of amorous fulfilment. This silent reminder of the essential difference between the two characters was particularly effective.
After Maria entered, disturbed by their singing of a catch, Sir Toby became quite angry at Olivia’s insistence on quiet. He roared with anger that they were “consanguineous”. This was quite striking as his anger came from nowhere.
Malvolio got a laugh for his ridiculous nightgown and cap. Sir Toby’s excellent cakes and ale jibe provided a comical slap-down. Sat on a chair turned away from the table, Sir Toby called for a stoup of wine. Maria was poised to pour when Malvolio, almost by the exit door at the rear of the stage, turned and warned her not to provide “means” for any more revelling. He exited, prompting Maria to shout at him to go shake his ears, upon which she poured Sir Toby his drink.
It seemed apt that the serving of drink became the symbol of these characters’ libertarian disobedience.
Maria unveiled her plot, which prompted a rather lame joke from Sir Andrew about her horse making Malvolio an ass, which fell characteristically flat.
The problem of the Fool’s absence from the gulling scene was deftly explained by Feste silently waving away Maria’s suggestion that “the Fool make a third”.
As the intimacy between them increased with the hatching of the plot, Maria came close to touching Sir Andrew, but instinctively turned from him to devote her attentions to Sir Toby, prompting his description of her after her exit as “a good wench”. Sir Andrew’s disappointment at failing to impress Maria then found expression in his touchingly sad comment “I was adored once too”.
Orsino and Cesario shared an intimate conversation in 2.4 on the comfy cushions in the Duke’s palace waiting for Feste to arrive. The hearty man-to-man mood of their woman talk soon changed when the fool’s song began. Orsino lay on his back with Cesario crouched behind his head. S/he then began touching his head and then his face, something which Orsino visibly enjoyed: his expression was one of intense joy as he clasped her hands to him.
The slow verse-speaking made this scene more languorous; it also brought out the clarity of thought behind Cesario’s complex statements about her situation. This was particularly true when she explained that she was all the daughters of her father’s house and all the brothers too. Communicated with such deliberate ease, it would have been difficult for Orsino to not have connected this with the physical familiarity the pair had just enjoyed. It was a brilliantly teasing moment, all the more enjoyable for the audience for being drawn out. But Orsino showed no sign of twigging.
After this most intimate of visual and verbal poetry, the interval came.
During the second half of the performance the set was decorated with a perspective model of a house and gardens. For the start of 2.5 there were also three elegant leaf-patterned screens. Three step ladders were placed behind the one centre stage and one step ladder behind that stage right; in front of this screen there was also a seat.
We were introduced to the Cockney Fabian and Maria placed her trick letter on the seat before the conspirators hid behind the screens.
Simon Paisley Day’s Malvolio continued to take himself very seriously without a hint of self doubt as he daydreamed about achieving higher social status, much to the fury of Sir Toby. The plotters popped up intermittently from behind the screens on the step ladders.
Once sat on the bench, Malvolio spied the letter and brushed it onto the ground. His comment about leaving Olivia sleeping carried no bawdy overtone. But when he referred to winding up his watch, he mimed this action with a repeated movement of his finger and thumb. When continued into his remark about playing with “some rich jewel”, the repeated gesture took on a bawdy connotation.
Sir Andrew crawled to Malvolio’s side in order to retrieve and reposition the letter. But when Malvolio’s speech turned to the “foolish knight” Sir Andrew spoke up quite loudly in recognition that this was a reference to him: all this just inches away from Malvolio. He was saved from discovery only by the stage convention of convenient invisibility.
Malvolio found the letter and began to walk around the garden reading it. This caused the conspirators to scatter as Olivia’s steward wandered behind the screens. At one point Sir Andrew faced into a fold in one of the screen’s panels, remaining very still and hoping to go unnoticed.
The instruction in the letter to “revolve” almost caused Malvolio to turn round, but he cut this movement short, turning the letter through 360 degrees instead.
Despite the mounting evidence that he was the subject of the letter, he only fully grasped its meaning when he came across the word “steward”. At this point the lights went on and his mood became ecstatic. His exclamation about “daylight and champaign” captured the sudden clarity of his realisation.
He moved towards the exit, but suddenly returned to read the postscript. Once Malvolio had finally gone, the others emerged and Sir Toby offered his neck for Maria to tread on.
Viola’s joking with Feste at the start of act three created a strong contrast between the wizened old fool and the young cross-dressed ingénue. She again looked as if she were playing a part and finding the entire process entertaining.
Despite his worldly wisdom and perspicacity, Feste showed no sign of seeing through Viola’s disguise when making his joke about Jove sending her a beard.
After her delightful speech about the skill of a fool, Cesario was interrupted by Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, who was carrying a French phrase book which he consulted to deliver his Gallic greeting. He then had to fumble through it clumsily trying to make sense of Cesario’s reply in fluent French.
The long exchange between Cesario and Olivia was the first part of the performance where an absence was felt. There was something vague about the relationship between the two. Whether it was Olivia’s reticence or Cesario’s lack of seriousness, the sequence felt underplayed. Neither of them seemed to really engage with the other.
Two brief scenes (3.2 and 3.3) showed us Sir Toby persuading Sir Andrew to write a challenge to Cesario, with Maria’s announcement of Malvolio’s new costume, followed by Sebastian taking Antonio’s purse to go off into town. The purse was dangled in mid-air for quite some time to imprint its form on our memories.
Malvolio appeared in his yellow cross garters with yellow backing visible beneath the slits in his breeches, topped off with a yellow sash across his black jacket. He had thrown himself into his new look with the utmost seriousness. While some Malvolios descend into clowning at this point with the actor giving a nod to the audience about the ridiculousness of the character’s appearance, Simon Paisley Day was as earnest as if he were wearing a suit to an interview.
Olivia held her hand out to Malvolio at the key “Wilt thou go to bed…?” line. In spite of his professed acceptance, he never seemed genuinely intent on taking up the presumed offer.
He was equally solemn in coming forward and addressing the audience with his insight that Olivia sending Sir Toby to have “special care” of him was consistent with the content of the letter.
Fabian, Maria and Sir Toby entered dressed as priestly exorcists with crucifixes and holy water. They surrounded and literally demonised Malvolio, making spitting noises as if splatters of holy water were fizzing on contact with his demonic presence.
Cockney Fabian delivered the line about the scene being presented on the stage and being received as an improbable fiction with a knowing look to the audience. Sir Andrew’s challenge was read out by Sir Toby causing much merriment all round.
After Olivia had put a miniature portrait of herself around Cesario’s neck, Sir Toby informed the disguised Viola of the challenge, but she once again seemed more bemused than shocked. As Cesario was unarmed, Sir Toby had to sling a sword belt across her shoulder so that she would stand prepared for Sir Andrew’s onslaught.
When the two combatants confronted each other, Cesario struggled to take her sword out of its scabbard. A series of pulls and tugs were to no avail, until with one mighty stroke she drew the weapon, which yielded so easily that she ended up with it poised high above her head as if about to strike a deadly downward blow.
Seeing this, Sir Andrew tried to copy Cesario but had difficulty getting his hand through the intricate guard of his Renaissance rapier. Antonio entered and separated them before any fighting could take place. Sir Toby countered Antonio, while Cesario and Sir Andrew stood apart and watched stage left. They both agreed to put their swords up.
Antonio’s arrest saw Cesario get out her purse to offer him money, allowing us to see that it was identical to that lent to Sebastian.
Cesario came forward to tell us about Antonio’s mention of her brother Sebastian. This marked the first time that her bemusement gave way to genuine concern.
Sir Andrew’s parting gesture was to punch his fist into the palm of his hand in anticipation of what he thought he might do to his opponent later.
Feste kept touching his nose when talking to Sebastian at the start of 4.1 so that when he finally said “nor this is not my nose neither” he was referring to something to which he had already been drawing attention for some time.
Sir Andrew fought with Sebastian, and Sir Toby became embroiled too. Olivia brought the fighting to an end, discovering, then leading away, her “Cesario”.
The stage went dark for 4.2 with Malvolio crouched blindfolded in a bird cage with his hands and feet tied. Feste used a high voice when pretending to be Sir Topas.
Malvolio’s cramped and inhuman imprisonment was quite startling. The bird cage looked like a distant, albeit sickly, reference to Lear’s promise to Cordelia that they would sing together like birds in a cage.
Sebastian entered through the back door of the set for 4.3 describing his time spent with Olivia. But unlike many contemporary productions there was no overt hint of sexual activity between them (such as showing him rising from her bed).
Olivia looked stunning in her orange wedding dress, which matched the red colour scheme of the production as she invited Sebastian to the hastily arranged nuptials.
It was time to bring all the plot strands together in the marathon final act/scene 5.1.
After being entertained by Feste’s fooling and condemning the captured Antonio, Orsino found himself once again rejected by Olivia. His apparent jealous threat against Cesario was not made with any violence or attempt at harming her. He was forceful but calm.
Cesario followed Orsino (to a presumed death) but there was something unrealistic about her submission. Rebecca Hall’s portrayal of the character so far had not been passionate enough to make Cesario’s actions here seem likely. Nor was her sudden avowal of love particularly convincing. Cesario/Viola had always floated over the surface of events rather than being caught up in them.
The trigger word “husband” was said by Olivia just as Orsino reached the stage right doorway.
Sir Andrew entered with a bleeding wound on his head. Sir Toby limped on stage assisted by Fabian and Feste. Sir Toby was drunk (again) which made his criticism of the intoxicated surgeon all the more funny.
As Sir Andrew was led away, his wig came off revealing a scabby head with only tufts of hair. This pox symptom neatly referred back to Sir Andrew’s conversation in 1.3 about how “the arts” would have mended his hair. We could now see how badly it was in need of repair.
The reunion between the separated siblings was blocked to create a very pleasing series of visually poetic effects befitting a production that emphasised the poetry of the language.
Sebastian entered upstage right and moved directly towards Olivia standing stage left. Viola stood with her back to him at this point creating a mirror image of the two identically dressed characters. She then recognised her brother’s voice and turned to face his back while he was still talking to Olivia.
Orsino saw the pair and announced how similar they looked. But Sebastian did not notice this. He had caught sight of Antonio stage left near to Olivia and engaged him in conversation. His friend wondered how the apple had become “cleft in two”.
Olivia moved from stage left to the centre. Sebastian turned from Antonio and faced his sister, the two of them forming another distinct mirror image, with the centrally placed Olivia exclaiming “Most wonderful!” from a perfect vantage point.
The verse conversation between Viola and Sebastian proceeded through a slow process of verification and fact checking. Orsino finally took Viola’s hand when the full implication of it for all the characters became known.
Feste read Malvolio’s letter madly and it was given to Fabian to read. When the steward himself entered, he still seemed very much in control of himself despite his justifiable frustration. This made his threat to wreak revenge a genuine menace rather than an idle parting shot.
There was a brief moment of comedy as Orsino incorrectly tried to pair off with Sebastian before correcting himself.
Everyone departed apart from Feste who used his tabor as a prop to illustrate the various stage of his life as set out in his closing song. He tapped on it to indicate rain, held it in front of him like an apron to indicate his wife and put it by his cheek as a pillow.
This production succeeding in telling the story and also giving due respect to the poetry of the language. But there were times when the atmosphere was too mellow and could have benefited from a bit more spice. This would have made the emotional lives of many of the characters more credible.
However, there is a lot to be said for making a performance of Shakespearean verse sound like a poetry reading. Differentiating between verse and prose brings out the flavour of each style of writing so that their distinct dramatic effects can be fully felt.
Twelfth Night, Hoxton Hall, 12 January 2011
Of the various venues on offer to see this music hall themed production of Twelfth Night, only one made perfect sense: the Victorian music hall, Hoxton Hall.
Some themed productions of Shakespeare disappoint. A director decides to set a play on Mars or in the 1970s, but after half an hour the wigs and sets are forgot and the play’s references to Illyria, Bohemia, Scotland etc. purge the production of whatever radical cleverness was first conceived.
Not so in Another Way Theatre’s take on Twelfth Night. Not only did the theme suit the play perfectly, but it also meant that the bawdy humour in the comedy could be seen in a new light: as the direct ancestor of the cheeky humour of music hall, Benny Hill and beyond.
The split level stage was decked out with trellis covered in netting, which gave it a nautical look. The front seats were positioned around tables and playbills were posted up to create a music hall atmosphere. A sheet hung at the back onto which film clips appropriate to the onstage action were projected.
The performance began with Feste, played by Andrew Venning, in his music hall comedian attire leading the audience in fifteen minutes of singing. The programme helpfully contained the lyrics to three old-time classics: Golden Hair, Where Did You Get That Hat? and Waltz Me Around Again, Willie.
The segment ended with a music hall style song written especially for the performance by director Chris Chambers called Oh What You Will. With lyrics based on the alternative title of Twelfth Night, the song created an aural link between the world of the music hall and the world of the play.
Virtually everyone in the cast played an instrument and contributed to the opening music. When it subsided only three actors were left sitting on stage and the centre one announced himself to be Orsino (Steven Rostance) by kicking the play off with its famous opening line.
Music and song, usually led by Feste, punctuated the production reinforcing the theme and keeping it central to the audience’s awareness of the play.
The separation of Viola and Sebastian was dramatised with a billowing sheet representing the sea. The sheet was then wrapped around her like a warming blanket as, newly arrived in Illyria, she questioned her whereabouts.
The sheet was then raised to cover her as she changed behind it into her Cesario disguise.
Despite taking over the role of Viola at short notice to cover for illness, Alexis Jayne Defoe delivered a confident performance with excellent verse speaking. It was only towards the end that she had to resort to reading from the script. But by that stage she had built up such a reserve of goodwill that this slight flaw was barely noticeable.
I instantly liked Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. The ebullient corpulence of Andrew Goddard contrasted with the nervous leanness of Christopher Mark to create a comedy duo that was reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy. Taniel Yusef’s Maria was also impressive, throwing herself into the buttery bar joke with gusto.
Malvolio (Michael Good) exuded cake-and-ale-snatching self-importance, his gloves suggesting that the world around him was a series of potential contaminations to be combated.
Chief among these contaminations was Sir Toby, who made the line “There’s one at the gate” into a comment on the progress of food through and out of his digestive system.
Rebecca Tanwen’s Olivia had a chance to play comedy alongside Maria, as the pair donned veils and spoke in unison announcing themselves both to be the lady of the house when Cesario first visited.
Seeing Carl Chambers as Sebastian at the start of act two made me realise how well they had done to find a stand-in Viola who closely resembled her brother. She continued to prove her worth with a praiseworthy rendition of Viola’s “I am the man” soliloquy. This was one of those wonderful occasions in the theatre when an actor’s obvious joy in the language of the play was matched only by the audience’s joy in listening to it.
The party scene got off to a suggestive start as we saw Sir Andrew viewing images from a projector. The singing of Hold Thy Peace was interrupted by the arrival of Maria in her dressing gown with her hair down. After a second song, Malvolio appeared above in the gallery. Maria’s delight in planning her revenge on the officious killjoy was palpable.
Feste sang “Come away death” to Orsino and Cesario, whose avowal of love, describing her “sister” who pined away like Patience on a monument, was genuinely moving.
The part of Fabian was cut entirely, although he did get a mention on one of the playbills that decorated the set. This meant that during the gulling scene his lines were allocated to Feste.
With their plan laid, the conspirators hid behind a row of chairs waiting for Malvolio to find the fake letter pegged to a trellis. For additional comic effect, they later hid behind insubstantial sections of trellis which they each extended and held before them as token camouflage.
Malvolio brought out the bawdy implications of him leaving Olivia sleeping; his eyes squinted in anticipation. Talking of playing with “some rich jewel”, he instinctively closed his legs in another double entendre.
It was here that the music hall theme of the production offered an interesting insight. Amid the faded splendour of a genuine Victorian music hall, Malvolio pondered the handwriting in the letter and engaged in some basic graphology: “These be her very c’s, her u’s and her t’s, and thus makes she her great P’s”.
This most Shakespearean of double entendres suddenly sounded like the granddad of all subsequent bawdy jokes down the ages.
Although she began her career some time after Hoxton Hall ceased to be a working music hall, Hoxton-born Marie Lloyd made a career out of exactly this kind of humour, exemplified by her song “She Sits Among The Cabbages And Peas”.
Shakespeare’s bawdy had been brought to a venue that centuries after his time had devoted itself to just this kind of comedy.
Sir Andrew made a point of drawing attention to the subtle joke by asking: “Her c’s, her u’s and her t’s. Why that?” Sir Toby whispered in his ear causing Sir Andrew to express considerable shock when he understood the answer.
David Crystal, who is always keen to point out the inaccuracy of this interpretation of the word, would have been disappointed to see that Malvolio turned round on reading “revolve” in the letter. But then again, this might have been an indication that he was not particularly bright, as he also tried to read the letters M.O.A.I as a word.
After the successful gulling of the hapless steward, the interval was preceded by yet another singsong, sending the audience off to the bar in a very jolly mood.
Oh, Oh Malvolio!
The second half of the performance began with more music hall songs, including one designed to recap the gulling scene and look forward to Malvolio’s subsequent appearance. The song “Oh, Oh Antonio!” was adapted into a version entitled “Oh, Oh Malvolio!” A puppet version of Malvolio complete with yellow cross garters was made to dance in rhythm to the song.
For the start of act three Orsino and Viola came and sat at my table in seats that had been marked as reserved. From this position, Viola joked with Feste about his tabor and its proximity to the church. This reminded me that in the last RSC production of Twelfth Night, Nancy Carroll and Miltos Yerolemou had played this scene almost like a music hall double act, zinging jokes off each other. So the static staging here was perhaps an opportunity lost to inject a music hall vibe into a comedy scene.
But any niggles about the staging were swept aside as Alexis and Rebecca performed the long exchange in which Olivia woos the disguised Viola. The sequence benefited from being staged in a relatively small space. The intimacy of the venue accentuated the beauty of the language, which was accentuated by the skill of the verse speaking.
The comic highlight of any production of Twelfth Night lived up to expectations. Malvolio made his grand entrance in his ridiculous outfit of yellow stockings with cross garters, complemented by a matching yellow neckerchief. He seized on Olivia’s innocent suggestion that Malvolio should go to bed by seizing her in an embrace.
Sir Toby, Feste and Maria reacted in an exaggerated manner to Malvolio’s behaviour, but then returned to their normal selves when congratulating each other on the success of their plan.
We also got a glimpse of Sir Toby’s unpleasant side when he read Sir Andrew’s challenge and announced that he was not going to deliver it to Cesario.
It was at around this point that Alexis began to require a script to read from. She had done exceedingly well to have performed the part with skill and professionalism at such short notice; her rendition of many of the key speeches betrayed no hint of having stepped unexpectedly into another actor’s shoes. This meant that her stock of credit with the audience was so high and the goodwill towards her so intense that her reading from the page made no difference to the enjoyment of her performance.
This was also the case where in the mock sword fight with Sir Andrew, she was obliged to hold a music hall comedian’s cane like a sword in one hand with the script in the other.
Fortunately there was no protracted fight between the two as Antonio (Trevor Murphy) entered to break it up almost immediately.
When Viola commented on Antonio’s mention of her brother Sebastian’s name, she mentioned that she wore the exact “fashion, colour, ornament, for him I imitate.” We could see that her costume was indeed the same, right down to the “ornament” or brooch that both were wearing.
Feste wore a clown’s nose at various points in the play. When talking to Sebastian in 4.1 he was able to use it to comic effect, pointing at it to say the line “nor this is not my nose neither”. This slightly undercut the intended meaning of the original phrase.
Sir Andrew struck Sebastian with his glove to issue his challenge (to the wrong sibling). Only the arrival of Olivia saved him from Sir Andrew and latterly Sir Toby’s aggression. The surprise on his face as Olivia invited Sebastian to come with her was a picture.
Malvolio’s incarceration was neatly staged by having him crouch in near darkness higher up at the back of the main stage while Feste gulled him once again in the guise of Sir Topaz. It was difficult not to feel genuinely sorry when confronted with his distraught condition.
We saw Sebastian in bed with Olivia at the start of 4.3 which showed us the aftermath of their first meeting at the end of 4.1. Sebastian rose from the bed, high up at the back of the stage, and descended to tell us what a great day he was having. In this light his words “This is the air, that is the glorious sun” seemed fully justified.
A moment of comedy ensued when Olivia arrived with the Priest in a wedding dress, putting her line “Blame not this haste of mine” into humorous context.
With Fabian having been excised and his part taken by Feste, the short dialogue between the two characters in the first six lines of 5.1 was also cut.
And so the momentous final act/scene got underway with the great mix-up that saw Olivia talking to Viola as if married to her/him. Orsino’s cry of “Husband!” in reaction to Olivia’s description of Cesario raised a big laugh, which went some way to making us forget that he had just apparently threatened to harm both Olivia and Cesario.
The staging of the sequence in which all the key characters are reunited was very satisfying. Sir Andrew and Sir Toby entered fresh from their encounter with the armed Sebastian downstage left, and Viola disguised as Cesario found herself upstage left. Sebastian then entered downstage left and went to confront Olivia, who was downstage right. In this way Sebastian ended up with his back to Viola.
Orsino spotted the similarity between the pair, triggering the reunion between the estranged brother and sister.
Feste continued to read Malvolio’s letter to the end after being castigated by Olivia for his mad rendition of it (another consequence of cutting Fabian). Once the steward had been released and the entire plot against him revealed, he took his parting shot pausing menacingly to promise “I’ll be revenged… on the whole pack of you!” This severely undercut the air of jollity at the end of the play.
A brief moment of comedy lightened the air after Malvolio’s furious exit: Orsino and Olivia inadvertently took the wrong partners, quickly correcting their mistake and pairing up with the right ones as the story came to a close.
Feste’s reflective final song was rearranged into a big production number as the entire cast re-entered playing instruments, apart from Sir Toby and Sir Andrew who twirled parasols, to generate a rousing end to what had been a very entertaining evening.
The production demonstrated that there is as much joy to be had from the raw enthusiasm of fresh, striving talent as there is to be had from big established names cruising comfortably on a cushion of fame.