Although the pandemic may have prevented us from going to the theatre, many are opening their doors virtually to bring the theatre to us with live recorded performances of their most recent productions. To emulate the feel of going to the theatre, the English Department organised a watch-along of one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. Armed with our various snacks, we all sat down in our different houses to watch together the National Theatre’s light-hearted production of Twelfth Night – Shakespeare’s passionate comedy with tales of mistaken identity and unrequited love. With the vibrant and witty cast and the retro aesthetic, complete with jukeboxes, drag bars, mini swimming pools and even a telepathic fountain, the adaptation provided a fresh look to the classic play. While the show was bright and stylish, the humour was as inconsistent as Orsino, blurring the line at times into excessive, but overall the play was fun and enjoyable to watch. It particularly picked up nearing the end when the darker elements came into focus and, although the tonal shift was slightly jarring from the previous non-stop comedy, Tamsin Greig’s outstanding performance as the gender-bent Malvolio made this a more real and poignant portrayal of the pain that love and trickery can cause.
After watching the play, Lit Soc members and a few teachers called to express our thoughts. We discussed the implications of changing Malvolio to Malvolia and whether this added another level of sadness to the final scene, as well as discussing if a production should be more innovative and play to a modern audience or whether it is somehow better to follow a more traditional approach. In the end, although this version may be unorthodox at times for Shakespeare purists, it is a comfortable adaptation that someone with little knowledge in Shakespeare could enjoy, and we are grateful to the National Theatre for allowing us to still experience the theatre during quarantine.
Nidhi 11J and Rose 11K