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Tag Archive | "Twelfth Night"

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Review: Twelfth Night or What You Will, The Bussey Building

Posted on 09 February 2014 by Amy Merrigan

I am a frequent visitor to Peckham but I never realised it had a theatre in in, and certainly not one so vast – but here I am at The Bussey Building, and right now it is housing the Whistlestop Theatre company’s production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

In case you are not familiar with the plot, this play centres around the mistaken identity of Viola (Cam Spence), who disguises herself as a man after being washed ashore in an unknown land  following a shipwreck which (supposedly) killed her twin brother, Sebastian (Jack Finch). Confusion and hilarity ensues. It’s one of those Shakespeare plays that is essentially the blueprint for every romantic comedy ever.

This production is a huge amount of fun. As I was ushered in by a heavily eyeliner-ed Sir Toby, and introduced to a nerdy Sir Andrew and a fur coat-clad Olivia, I couldn’t but smile. Improvising, the cast all set the scene convincingly in a London bar, where the rest of the action will take place, with beers and vodka shots all round.

I am a great believer in modern dress Shakespeare, and this re-imagining works well in the main, particularly in regard to the Sir Toby/Sir Andrew group of characters and the subplot involving Malvolio (James Taylor Thomas). When Malvolio appears in the second half as the victim of a practical joke, with ‘DICK’ written across his forehead,  it is easy to imagine the perpetrators – Sir Toby and co – as any drunken group of friends today.

The whole business of the Viola/Olivia/Orsino plot is however a little confusing and has flaws. This whole play hinges on our belief that Olivia really thinks Viola is male, yet Viola just doesn’t look – or act – like a man. Although the language is clear, there are serious lacks in subtext, in my opinion. In a world where women actually do fall in love with women, and men with men, the whole gender confusion is less immediately funny. You lean towards thinking that perhaps Olivia is merely bi-curious.

The dialogue is generally very well delivered, with particularly good performances from Niall Rooney (Sir Toby) and Emma Richardson (Maria), but there are also moments which lack clear diction. My favourite part of this play has always been the ‘willow cabin’ speech, but here this didn’t pass muster for me. I just didn’t see, with any clarity, what Viola’s true feelings were. There are some other minor language points too – Feste the fool is a woman, which works well, but I don’t understand why the pronouns haven’t been changed to ‘she’.

However, that aside the play is very smoothly cut down to just 90 minutes and is delightedly fast-paced. The adaptation keeps the essence of the story very well, although I think we need to see more of Orsino, who is rather under-developed. All in all, it is fresh and clear and above all fun, which is really what Twelfth Night should be all about.

Twelfth Night is playing at The Bussey Building until 22 February. For more information and tickets, see the Whistle Stop Tour website.

Amy Merrigan

Amy Merrigan

Amy is a 17 year old Londoner who has just finished her A-levels. She is looking forward to a gap year of theatre trips, some teaching in Malawi and trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

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Review: Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Arcola Theatre

Posted on 18 January 2014 by Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Don Gil of the Green Breeches is one of three plays that makes up the Arcola Theatre’s Spanish Golden Age season. The piece is rife with characters donning multiple disguises, repeated cases of mistaken identity and a tangled web of lies, all of which form a complex yet comical plot. The theme of honour was prevalent in seventeenth century drama, and this Tirso de Molina play, written in 1615, is no exception. Donna Juana is angered that Don Martin (the man she loves and intends to marry) has abandoned her to pursue the wealthy Donna Ines, in a match clearly motivated by money rather than love. Following hot on Don Martin’s heels, Donna Juana decides to disguise herself as a rival male suitor, hoping that by doing so she will be able to prevent the marriage by seducing Donna Ines herself. To make this premise even more convoluted, both Don Martin and Donna Juana decide to operate under the same pseudonym, ‘Don Gil’, differentiated only by a pair of green breeches.

Don Gil of the Green Breeches could easily be referred to as a Spanish version of Twelfth Night. Not only are there similarities between Donna Juana’s and Viola’s cross-dressing guises, but in both works much of the comedy derives from the dramatic irony of the audience being the only constant figure who knows the true identity of all the characters. As Donna Juana, Hedydd Dylan is extremely skilled at accentuating the duplicitous nature of the text, particularly when addressing the audience directly during her humourous asides. Many belly laughs are also produced during the scenes in which Donna Ines (Katie Lightfoot) keeps remarking on the physical similarities between Donna Juana and Don Gil, statements that are made all the more comical by the fact that she is oblivious that she is referring to one and the same person.

The common pitfall with translating works of literature is that they can end up sounding quite stilted, lacking the nuances and overall essence of the original text. I am pleased to report that translator Sean O’Brien didn’t fall victim to this, and you don’t feel like anything got lost in translation. Brien’s version of Molina’s play not only captures the finesse of the original, but where possible also maintains the rhyme in the prose. Brien includes musical interludes in the piece, which as well providing divertissement also uphold a dramatic device that many writers of the Golden Age used at the time. Furthermore, in this production the musical numbers are accompanied by the sounds of a strumming Spanish guitar and fast-paced castanets, which reinforce the work’s cultural heritage.

Although Don Gil of the Green Breeches is firmly rooted in Spain, many of the play’s themes such as unrequited love, deception and jealousy make for a timeless and universal work. The calibre of this cast is extremely high, and personally I don’t think that there is a single weak performance among them. As well as this gem of a production, the company are also performing two Lope de Vega plays in rep (Punishment Without Revenge and A Lady of Little Sense). As a language graduate myself, I know that all too often brilliant plays such as these are left sitting on bookshelves gathering dust. It is a real joy to see a Golden Age play brought to life and executed so well on stage. Although the plot of Don Gil of the Green Breeches may seem mind-boggling at first, once I’d pieced it all together this comedic and chaotic farce is a true delight to watch.

Don Gil of the Green Breeches is being performed at the Arcola Theatre until 15 March. For tickets and more information please visit the Arcola Theatre website.

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby isla Cera Marle recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London where she studied Spanish and European Literature and Cultural Studies. Currently Ruby is working as Press and Marketing Assistant at Rambert Dance Company..

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Handlebards Blog: The Week Of The Birthday Castle, The Knighted Steak and The Brass Band.

Posted on 02 August 2013 by Handlebards Blog

As some of you may have noticed, the HandleBards have a stock photo of us in our costumes in the same position in front of each venue. As everyone will have experienced, week three was a week of scorching sunshine. In Durham we combined these two features as we left Crook Hall with a photo of us in just our underwear and socks. We managed to do this by deftly dodging the paying public wandering around the grounds, whilst at the same time grabbing an employee and getting her to take said photo. In hindsight this may have been a little more frightening to her than we anticipated, so if she reads this, thank you and sorry.

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On Tuesday we travelled to Bowes Museum, a beautiful structure originally created to rival the V&A in London for a free show of Twelfth Night. As Bowes Museum had a public park we managed to camp by the venue, and for the first time ever on the tour, four grown mature and sophisticated men (us) feared for our lives as unknown dog walkers, joggers and the occasional drunk ambled past our tents in the dead of night. For one night, we felt we had camped in a budget thriller movie, as the mundane became potential fearful events whilst the night drew in.

We woke up on Wednesday, alive and with all of our limbs (possibly because Tom had slept with the tent mallet by his side in case of potential intruders) and set off to Bolton Castle. Our journey to Bolton Castle was our greatest challenge yet. Whilst only 25 miles, we had to brave the Yorkshire Dales in the heat of the day on bikes not suited for the terrain. Our bikes are the wonderful hybrid Specialised Series, which are light and fast paced – mountain bikes would have been preferable for this journey. For me, this was an incredibly uncomfortable trip, which felt very dangerous. The ground underfoot was dusty and covered in rocks and potholes, if you didn’t peddle at quite a fast speed the bike would skid and fall. Even then, if you peddled too fast and turned sharply…. the bike would skid and fall. I was just grateful I wasn’t the one pulling the 55-kilo trailer on the continuous incline that was the town of Reeth. The scenery however, was stunning.

As we were used by this point to cycling journeys of 40 miles followed by a show we were confident this one would not take long. We were wrong. After five hours we reached Bolton castle, much of our speed was hindered by the fact we had to cycle ahead of the trailer, dismount, run back, and help whoever was carrying the trailer at that point by pushing it up the hill. It was 3pm and absolutely baking when we met Katie the venue manager, who took one look at our sweaty appearances, took pity on us and lead us to the canteen for a cold drink. The area in which we would be performing in turned out to be the Castles courtyard surrounded by its semi preserved walls, battlements and a working portcullis which was lowered as we set up.

After the heavy day’s cycling we were grateful we would not have to strain our voices to be heard in the space, and the atmospheric surroundings added wonderfully to the show. At the end of each show Paul Moss explained to the audience that we had gallantly managed to cycle here via Reeth, and an older man in the crowd laughed and later told us that the journey was nothing and he did similar ever day. I must admit that, on hearing these words, I was impressed the cast remained smiling and none broke down in tears.

Tom, the son of the Lord of Bolton Castle, told us that instead of camping in the castle’s grounds, we were welcome to stay in the castle. On our own. The whole of Bolton Castle, with lowered portcullis and wood fire, would for one night be the HandleBards Castle. We wished we had our own flag to fly from the battlements.

The next day we cycled 50miles, still through the Dales, on our way to Houghton Tower. We fuelled ourselves by stopping at a tearoom in Aysgarth Falls, where we ate all the food, which helped us do the trip in seven hours. A special shout out must be made to Tom Dixon who managed to cycle up a killer hill, which ran for half a mile at a 16% incline pulling the trailer. He did all this without stopping and managed to keep his top on.

We arrived at Houghton Tower in Preston to perform both Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. Here we met the Brothers of Swing who would join us in performing Twelfth Night. These cheeky chappies were brilliant at charming an audience, and transformed the scenes we incorporated them into, adding to the comedy of the whole situation. The famous Orsino speech “If music be the food of love” was accompanied by an a cappela version of ‘Come fly with me’ by Frank Sinatra. They nonchalantly strutted through the audience, until the words ‘Enough no more, tis not as sweet now as it was before’ halted them in their tracks and with muttered words of outrage they reluctantly sat with the chuckling audience. Houghton Tower was where King James I is said to have knighted a particularly tasty loin of beef during a meal in 1617. This is now why we call it ‘Sirloin Steak.’

The next day, the HandleBards assembled and began their journey to the Monastery in Manchester for a performance of Romeo and Juliet in one of our first indoor venues since Glasgow. The 40-mile journey went smoothly and we met the 25-piece Eagley Brass Band who would be performing with us. In their very professional matching uniforms, the band played with expert skill, the sound reverberating off the walls of the monastery beautifully. Whilst the actors had to lower their volume whilst performing due to the echoey acoustics, the band seemed to overpower even physics, as every note played could be heard perfectly.

This was an incredible week for the HandleBards: we survived the Dales, owned a castle for a night, entered the room where James I knighted some beef, and were accompanied by a 25-piece brass band in the Monastery. Surreal and wonderful and full of hard work, we look forward to week four.

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Blog: Handlebards on tour – crossing the border

Posted on 19 July 2013 by Handlebards Blog

handbards 1

We’re a quarter of the way through our tour, hurray! We’ve had some beautiful rides and had very positive feedback, and couldn’t be more chuffed with how it’s all going; thank you to everyone who has supported us so far!

So to pick up exactly where we left off, we performed at Bowhill house with beautiful sweeping fields as our backdrop and with some lovely Balkan folk music curtesy of The Beggar Girls. We ask local musicians to perform with us at each of our shows. We also ask the musicians to perform at certain points in each of the shows (the masquerade ball in Romeo and Juliet, and “If music be the food of love”  in Twelfth Night being two examples). As we have different musicians and different styles of music at each venue it make each show unique.

Whilst on this tour we have been met by nothing but niceness along the way, and random acts of kindness that have helped get us through the long days. At the heart of this is the caretaker of Bowhill house, Calum. Calum has worked (and lived) at the museum for over 20 years. He has 3 dogs, a wife and 2 children, and is the most selfless and caring person I have ever met. Making us feel so at home during our stay, he helped us from the moment we got there, handing out flyers, setting up a barbeque and giving us burgers, beers, fruit and donuts after the show, helping plan our next our route, bringing us coffee and toast for breakfast and giving me a pair of his cycling sunglasses because mine had broke! As we kept thanking him for all the lovely stuff he was doing for us, he made a point of saying that helping people and making others happy is just something at we should all try to do. Calum, we want you to know that your thoughtfulness and generosity was truly inspirational and we hope we have the chance to meet you again.

Our next ride was from Selkirk to Etal which was to be 40 miles straight into a show… It was a big one and at 8.30am as we prepared to leave Selkirk spirits were high. Five minutes into the journey at the top of our first hill we were hit by our first puncture. We’ve had broken hangers, sheared dérailleurs, snapped wheel spokes and ripped tyres but this was our first puncture.

Later that day Tillyvally (our trailer of doom) got her first puncture. This was a lot more difficult to fix, but due to the beautiful weather and a musical sing-a-long session (including hits from Les Mis, West Side Story and Matilda) nothing could get us down. We stopped for lunch in the lovely Kelso, replaced Tillyvally’s inner tube (puncture number three) and bumped into a lovely lady who told us she was seeing the show that night in Etal (we felt like celebrities!). She the popped back five minutes later to say: “Just thought I’d let you know that if you see me rushing off half way through the show, it’s not you, but my son’s just called me and I’m going to be a grandma very soon! He thinks I should come to the hospital straight away; I don’t think he quite understands how long it’s going to take! Besides I’m taking a party of seven people to your show and I’m bringing the picnic table!!” She managed to see the whole show – just goes to show how good maternal foresight is. We all hope your grand child is happy, healthy and cute!

handlebards 2

Arriving at Etal Manor at 5pm for our first charity-led show we met Lady Joicey and Hospice Care Northumberland and set up the stage immediately. Our biggest show yet, we performed Twelfth Night to 300 people (including the local butcher, most of Etal and about 30 French school children) with music provided by Antic Hay, we helped raise loads of money for Hospice Care Northumberland (exact figures will be released at a later date) in what proved to be a sunny and jovial evening.

At the end of the show we sometimes ask our audiences for any leftovers from their picnics as we can usually find a time to polish them off! Little did we realise how much food we would recieve this time – olives, cheeses, pork pies, dips and four jars of pâté! We also got invited over to a huge picnic table by a lovely party of people who filled us up with more food and drink including a cheese board and banana chocolate cake (my favourite). We were also invited to the local cafe The Lavender Tea Rooms’ for a free breakfast, and later that evening we had a tasty supper with Lord and Lady Joicey and Richard Joicey (needless to say we were the most full we have ever been and had enough food to last us the whole of the next day!).

The next morning we were on our way to meet Keith from the Wooler Wheels Bike Club who had planned our route. Five minutes in (as seems to be the recurring theme) Tilly got her third (and our grand total fourth) puncture. We continued through Alnwick and on to Warkworth where the bike club had sourced us a campsite.

Next morning, about five miles in, disaster struck: Tillyvally hit a bump in the road and went soaring, dragging Callum’s bike with it and destroying his back wheel. He continued riding for another five miles but in the end had to get a taxi to take him to Morpeth where he had to have his whole back wheel replaced. The rest of us carried on and carefully pulled the monster that is Tillyvally.

20 miles, and we reached the stunning Whalton manor. That evening we had a lovely show and some great food. Friday morning we took our time to pack up and continued for what should have been a short and easy 17 miles to Newcastle. Tillyvally did her best to ruin the day again: with three miles to go we heard an almighty bang and Tilly came to an immediate stop. This time her treads had completely worn out and there was a huge gaping hole in her tyre. Some handy work helped take us another two miles but then the noise was heard again. Tilly had rolled her last leg of our journey. Thanks to fantastic help from the Cycle Hub, she was taken by car for the last mile of the journey whilst we continued cycling without her.

The Cycle Hub staff were amazing, over Friday and Saturday they let us use the space to do admin and costume and generally just slob out and get in the way. They gave us free coffee and gave us all a bike maintenance check for free, meaning those loose brakes and jolting gears all but disappeared. We also took time to wander around Ouseburn, which you should definitely do if you’re ever in Newcastle. Saturday evening’s performance outside the Cycle Hub was really successful, with the Gladstone Trio providing some fantastic music (our highlight being when we got to perform the masquerade ball to Blondie’s Call Me being performed on a £10,000 cello).

On Sunday morning we managed to source a new trailer! With bigger wheels, more structural support and less rust, she’s a beauty, and we’ve named her Penthesilea. A cool 16 miles down the road got us to Durham, Crook Hall. As we didn’t have any musicians for the show yet, we asked two buskers, who turned out to be a massive hit with the audience. After a very successful Twelfth Night we went back to the home of our friend Seif, who provided warm beds, a (much needed) shower and a huge meal of pasta and salad (cooked by his amazing mum, who was visiting from Egypt.)

We were going to try to keep these updates short, but it seems we just have too much to tell you about! Anyway, until the next free WiFi connection, farewell dear hearts since I must needs be gone and on lusty gentlemen!

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