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Th Play Produced Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night is arguably the finest of Shakespeare's comedies crowning and using many of the themes of his previous nine comedies and turning towards his later emotional romances. Its very title stirs up associations with the annual revelries which took place at this time, when there were feastings and enter­ tainments all under the control of the Lord of Misrule.

hose, I set the playas late as I was able the year of the death of James L 1625. The costumes which came from the National Theatre, were mag­ nificent. Since I had decided the time of year of my action was from Twelfth Night until Shrove Tuesday the period of the Venetian CarnivaL which would have been celebrated in a country ruled by that Republic - the costumes were all appro­ priate colours, black, rust, dull blue and green. As it was Carni­ val the opening scene was set in the street with members of the cast in masks and full black cloaks enjoying the revels until interrupted by Orsino's famous opening line "If music be the food of love play on". Since music is such an integral part of Twelfth Night, I listened

Some years ago I played Malvolio in a production firmly set in Elizabethan England and I recalled saying at ,t he time should I ever direct the play my location would be, as Shake­ speare indicated, Illyria. I was contracted to present a full text to be set in Elizabethan or Jacobean times but not where it was to be set. I therefore resolved that my setting should be Illyria. After all, it was a real country, part of the present day Yugoslavia. I therefore produced to my designer photographs of streets and courtyards in Dubrovnik, the Republic which 'lays at the southern-most end of the strip of coastline that was in the 17th century still ruled over by Venice. Although I did not want a realistic set, I wanted the feel of the Adriatic coast. Since male actors sometimes feel ill at ease in doublet and

to the music of earl y 17th century lutenists/ composers until I was overwhelmed by it eventually a fairly complex master tape was produced using the music of Praetorius, Schein, Widmann and Holborne. I had an advantage with the songs, my musician daughter composing fresh music appropriate for the period for them; this was later recorded beIng played by treble recorder and cello and incorpo­ rated in the master tape. As many will know the story of Twelfth Night concerns Viola and her twin brother Sebastian who are shipwrecked on the coast of lllyria and each believes the other drowned. Viola disguises herself as a boy assum­ ing the name of Cesario and enters the service of the Ruler Duke Orsino. Orsino is in love with the Countess Olivia and he sends Cesario, the disguised

Leslie Adams diswsses his production for the Stables Theatre, Hastings



Viola, to woo her on his behalf. Olivia thinking Viola is a man falls in love with her, whilst Viola has already fallen under the spell of Orsino. In the secondary plot, Malvolio, Oli­ via's pompous steward, is tricked by her uncle, Sir Toby Belch; her suitor Sir Andrew Aguecheek; Maria her gentle woman and Feste, an itinerant entertainer; into believing Olivia loves him. This is done by a letter left for him to find speaking of Olivia's apparent love for him and requir­ ing him to appear smiling and in yellow stockings, cross gartered. When he does So he is thought insane and confined to a dark cell. Sir Toby meanwhile tric!,s Sir Andrew into a duel with Cesario. Sebastian's rescuer Antonio interrupts the duel to save the disguised Viola, whom he believes to be her own brother. When Sebastian is again set upon he fights back, Olivia arrives, mistakes llim for Cesario and they are secretly married. True identities are revealed, Mal­ volio is released but swears revenge on all and the Duke declares his love for Viola. You will see that one of the trickiest pieces of casting is a Viola who can be capable of passing off as a young man and as such looks like the actor cast as Sebastian, who in turn must [lot appear girl-like in any way. I was fortunate in that there was a good turn out at auditions and after a recall a week later, I was able to come up with a very strong cast. The recall was

the play requires the three to b of comparative height and fo~ the ages to be compatible. Aftee that half-an-hour recall audition I was able to announce my full cast. Having got off to such a good start however my fortune, changed and in all I lost five actors from that original list ­ each had a good, valid an d unexpected reason for withdra­ wal - but luck was still with me and I was able to replace with others every bit as good. It wa, a very powerful cast, even the smaller parts, Curio, Valentine and the Sea Captain being filled by actors who had pLayed leads. Rehearsals at first were some­ what chaotic: due to the pressing commitments of the theatre [ was unable to get into the building for thirteen out of my first fifteen rehearsals; Sir Toby Belch, Malvolio and Antonio were already in another produc­ tion and my Viola got marri d.

basically to measure up against each other my prospective Viola and Olivia along with two con­ testants for Sebastian's role ­

so there was a gap for : honeymoon; but this is a pla_ that can be rehearsed in fai r! small groups apart from Act


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T he set that had been Igned was that for which I , asked. I had decided not to front tabs and so it was to be "lilt from the edge of the apron within a foot of the back wall. : the rear of the stage, was a '1lIsed gallery with three arches hich were used for all the

the main acting areas and it also held a secret, for late in the second part of the pia y the whol e of it was slide to one side to reveal the grill of the dark room in which Malvolio was confined the actor was able to make his appearance at the bars at stage level by coming up

over and the blue material was manipulated by the actors to create the effect o f waves; specialised lighting was played onto the double curtain. The ropes attached to the curtain were agitated and swung by other actors more and more violently to create the effect of

music and the costumes enabled me to create the period setting for which I was looking. The grouping and tableaux working particularly well at the end of ~he play whilst Feste sings his final song. This was an expensive pro­ duction and was created for

nominated street scenes and upon the lowering of swagged curtaining from the flies became Orsino's residence. It was five feet wide with just one exit each side - there was no wa y down to the main stage from that six feet six inches raised area. This left an overall depth of 21 feet for the main location of the action, that being the garden­ cum-courtyard of Olivia's house. On stage right the only entrance was a large grilled gate whilst on stage left a flight of five circular steps took us to the main double doors to the house; there was also an entry above the house on that side of the stage. In the

through the centre stage trap. There is one scene in Twelfth Night which causes something of a problem the second scene, where Viola still clad as a woman at this time and the S;?a Captain come ashore after their shipwreck. As I have said no front tabs were used, so when the audience entered the theatre they found a flimsy double cur­ tain 8 feet wide hanging in the centre of the set some 2 feet in advance of the garden area and completely disguising it. The opening of the play the Carnival setting took place around and in front of that curtain, using the gaps at each

sails in a storm and eventually the curtain was released from its batten; it fell to the stage and was gathered and removed along with the blue material as Viola and the Sea Captain fell forward into the pool of light provided for them. Lighting in this theatre is of a high standard for once set it is operated from a computerised lighting board w:1ich makes its operation so much easier; for instance in the final scene, I was able to use a five minute fade, a length of time that is almost impossible to create on a manually operated board. The lighting, the setting, the

visual effect as well as Shake­ spearean atmosphere and lan­ guage for it had been anticipated that the production was to be videoed for which the Stables Trust was to receive a substan­ tial fee. In the event this did not happen because it was said that the width of this theatre was insufficient to obtain the angles for the four video cameras which were to be used . Whilst the Stables Trust may have lost money from tbis venture, it was a production which brought forth praise from the majority of those who saw it and it may be that the video company are also the losers by not using it. 0

HIRE SERVICE COSTUMfS' fURNITUAf .PROPS I~ealre RUfai King SlreetHristui aSI ~tO · Iel m2121101026

HALL & DlXON Ltd. FOR STAGE CURTAINS, TRACKS, ALL SuSPENSIONS & OPERATING GEAR, &SCENERYIRONMONGERY tre of the courtyard was a lised garden area complete a small tree; this area was -. unded by a seat on three . This was used to good • for the scene in which Sir y Belch, Sir Andrew and . .an watched Malvolio find read the letter. The seat the audience was one of



Stage September 1989

side as entrances. Once the scene had ended the actors continued with their revels for a further few bars of music, during which they carried across the dimly lit stage two lengths of blue mater­ ial a very loud clap of thunder cut across the music and lightning flash ed; sound effects of wind and rain and sed took



Twelfth Night - September 1989  

Leslie Adams discusses her production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for the Stables Theatre, Hastings