By Eben Macdonald, Block 3
On 15 January, Block 3 students went to see William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, directed by Kelly Hunter.
The plot follows the plight of a woman named Viola, who is shipwrecked on the fictional island of Illyria, wrongly assuming that her brother Sebastian is dead. For her own safety, she pretends to be a boy, gives herself the pseudonym Cesario and goes to work for Duke Orsino, who madly loves Queen Olivia. She, however, does not feel the same, therefore Viola tries to persuade Olivia to love Orsino, but Olivia in fact falls in love with Viola, of course thinking she is male. There is then a variety of mad love affairs.
This energetic and powerful performance on Shakespeare’s most famous comedy certainly has a lot of display. Everything from the acting to the music had been well thought out and enthusiastically executed. For example, in almost every character I could very much get a feel for their personalities and inner-affairs; Oliver Grant, who plays Duke Orsino, was very versatile in his conveyance of emotion, and I could easily detect his raging desire for Queen Olivia’s love (Augustina Seymour), his consistent desperation, and his comic romancing. There is also a particularly moving scene where Viola (Paula Rodriguez), dressed as a boy, comes back from having attempted to woo Olivia in order to persuade her to love Orsino. He asks her excitedly, desperately whether he (she) was successful or not. When the response is ‘no’, Orsino falls into the pit of depression.
Also, I really got the impression of Viola’s audacity and eroticism when trying to woo Olivia, to which the audience responded with a lot of laughing, although at times I admit that I could not hear her very well. I thought that Malvolio, played by the composer himself, Tom Chapman, was especially good, as he starts off as a comically bossy and domineering character, and his amorous passion for Olivia, but after being imprisoned in darkness and humiliated, develops into a cynical and dark person; he delivered the famous line “I’ll have revenge on the whole pack of you” perfectly. The audience reacted to his yellow, cross-gartered stockings with plenty of laughs.
I very much enjoyed the way music and drama were ingeniously interweaved. For example, when we see Olivia for the first, grief-stricken upon her father’s death, is sat there, hunched, playing a mournful melody on the cello. It was evident that all the actors on stage were talented musicians as all the wonderful music was played by the actors themselves. I commend Tom Chapman, who was in charge of music.
Despite all this, there was one thing I did not approve of: at the beginning of the play, some of the scenes were swapped about, which I am against in Shakespeare because I believe that a director does not have the right to play with Shakespeare’s plays in that way. I also noticed that at times the audience did not respond to a lot of things with laughing, although I found them very amusing myself, such as Viola’s eroticism and Malvolio’s adoration and obsequiousness to Olivia. There were also actors playing more than one character, for example, Augustina Seymour plays both Olivia and Sir Toby. Although this was confusing at times, I appreciate that it was deliberately used to create a sense of disorder and chaos, which is what this play is about.
The simplicity of the set also caught me: it is merely a small, unraised stage with musical instruments scattered about the sides, conveying this metaphorical sense of music being intermingled with drama, and a ladder at the back of the stage which Malvolio eventually uses as the prison, hanging there is darkness, still wearing his ridiculous yellow, cross-gartered stockings, as the clown mocks him.
The end scene when Sebastian and Viola are reconciled, I thought was particularly moving, because the perplexion Orsino, Olivia and the curate display of seeing these two identical twins, right next to each other is so incredulous, and the two siblings, so elated to finally be together again.
The actors in this play certainly deserve credit for their energy and versatility, Kelly Hunter definitely deserves credit for his ability to mould this great play to please modern audiences (though I did not like the scene-swaps), and his magnificent performance of Orsino, and Tom Chapman for his musical creativity. I recommend this play highly.