Friday, 28 January 2011

Twelfth Night at The National Theatre

Just a quick post, about the production of Twelfth Night I saw at The National at the weekend. It's quite a while since I've seen such a traditionally staged Shakespeare play - they were all in tights and everything! - and it was actually quite a refreshing change, as opposed to productions that sometimes feel like they're being 'different' just for the sake of it.

However, although it was very enjoyable, it did seem to lack the sparkle that would have made it outstanding. I tend to think that Shakespeare is best performed when you can almost forget it is Shakespeare; that the dialogue is so well presented it stops feeling like verse. This always felt like a play. 

I'd also read a review from The Guardian that mentioned how Rebecca Hall (playing Viola) 'allows her hands to hang limply from her sides for most of the evening' and, as a result, I couldn't stop looking at her hands. Which did indeed dangle loosely at her sides the majority of the time...

For me, though, the problem with Twelfth Night is always Malvolio. I know that part of the subtext should be about jumbling things up and power being in different hands, but I can never really laugh at Malvolio being treated so cruelly for, really, just doing his job and not being a very cheerful soul. It sometimes works if Malvolio is played terribly hatefully, and the plot to taunt him remains light-hearted, but this just felt like cruelty, and cruelty for no reason that went unremarked and unpunished.

Overall, I was left with a similar feeling to that I felt at the end of last season's production of All's Well That End's Well...  although all the ends are tied away and everyone worthy is married off, that the underlying disquiet is just waiting to bubble up again...

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