Sunday, November 07, 2010
Twelfth Night: I think I Get it Now
I've fussed and fussed about Twelfth Night, and how I can never see so much in it as all those others who put it at the head of their master list. I think I get it now, thanks to a movie version filmed for the BBC back in 1969, directed by John Dexter and John Sichel. And here is the secret: it's a dance, or an elaborately-worked out poem, with body work. Play it fast enough, get the pace right, with the right kind of delicacy in expression and you simply forget about all the absurdities that drive you--here even more than in most Shakespeare so nuts in the reading. Then you get the feel of love as a great whoosh of divine madness that sweeps along from tableau to tableau. The first ten minutes or so, you tear your hair out and wonder how you will abide all this Victoran scenery-chewing. But stick around and you give up to it: you recognize that anything more "real" would just expose all the warts and spoil all the fun. It's not perfect: you wonder why poor Joan Plowright has only one facial expression, start to finish. And to set Feste up in the guise of a 33 year old rocker is an inspired risk that comes crashing to earth (his music was nice though). It's the kind of production you couldn't possibly do today--for one thing, nobody would know how. But it shows an aspect of Twelfth Night that I never understood before and I am so glad I took the time to give it a shot.