Caught the Royal Shakespeare Company’s first play of the London Season: Twelfth Night. My being over 25, and Shakespeare’s being an illiterate bloke who left behind no instructions for cheap student tickets led me to pay 10 pounds to be suspended from the vault of Novello Theatre. I sat right behind a theatre-buff family that made me miss mine terribly. The mother sat between the teenaged son and daughter, handed out chocolates, water, and tissues, and kept swaying like a windshield wiper throughout the play, explaining what was going on to her adorable darlings. Add to that her Jamie Lee Curtis-type architecture, and you get the picture.
The play was fantabulous! I like my Shakespeare interpreted, but not too much. Putting in a black actor who is praised for his fairness is brilliant. Putting in a dim lights smoooooooooooooch between Olivia and Viola is over-the-top. Mercifully, it was the former kind of production. Amazing acting, and music, innovative stage design. I guess nobody does it better than the Bard’s lads and ladettes! The Fool sang beautifully, and the ovation lasted forever.
Viola/Cezario played her part to the hilt. In Shakespeare’s time, it would have been a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy. She did an excellent job of parodying a masculine swagger and look. The Globe had recently put up Measure For Measure, where all the female parts were taken up by men. They pulled it off rather well too. Stereotypes abound in such scenarios, and judging purely by audience reaction, they work perfectly well. You get what you want, you clap, you go home. Nobody gets hurt. Nobody gets evolved.
There was a fair of women’s eyes painted in the background. The eyes were looking directly at the audience. I wondered throughout what they were doing there? Were they the eyes of Elizabeth I for whom the play was originally produced? Were they a token representation of the “female gaze” that is believed to be missing in most art productions? Was it a device to keep the audience aware that they were under scrutiny? Were they viewing me playing the part of an unsuccessful student hiding in the theater from her classmates because she doesn’t want to party with them?
Up Next: Shaw’s “You Never Can Tell”. He, being educated, left behind instructions that students should get a discount when they see his plays. However, being of a much later century than Billy, he upped the student price too. Well, as some wise people have noted, you gotta do what you gotta do.