I was very impressed with myself on this one. “Twelfth Night” on Feb. 12th. Doesn’t get more exciting than that. ha. ha. Anyway this show had been featured on the popular website “Timeout London” so I decided to try it out. Overall, a very interesting, and intimate experience. My train was late so I was nervous I would miss the show entirely. I ended up running (ok speed walking) out of the station and turning down what looked to be a purely residential area. Sure enough, there was the “Lion and Unicorn Theatre” which apparently is also the “Lion and Unicorn Pub.” Not a bad thing to discover, but nevertheless unexpected. I raced into the pub, was directed up the stairs and was confronted with a room about the size of my living room with chairs and benches set up in it. I quickly moved to the first bench I came upon (conveniently right up front) and about one minute later the light dimmed and the show began.
It wasn’t a bad show. Perhaps unclear at first but, hey, that’s Shakespeare. About three fourths of the way in, I suddenly heard the name of one of the characters (Sebastian) and it clicked. It was the Shakespeare story that inspired the feature film, “She’s the Man” with Amanda Bynes! After this revelation the plot suddenly became a lot clearer to me. I began to realize the subtle (a little too subtle) hints that the show was giving the audience. For example, in the story there is a pair of twins, one a boy and one a girl. The girl dresses up as a boy and they both are mistook for each other. I didn’t quite understand this even though the outfit choices the director picked for both characters were similar. I think, because of the complexities of Shakespeare, they should have been dressed identically, but for those seasoned Shakespeare fans, I’m sure they understood the similarities of the dress long before I did.
Some notable topics to hit on for this play would be the modernization of it, the amount of actors/actresses involved, and the songs included. This particular performance decided to have it based in the 21st century complete with cell phones, Ipods, and modern dress. In my opinion, they did not commit to it enough. The dress was modern but there was no attempt to modernize anything in the text. Poor Malvolio had to wear yellow stockings with criss crossed garters? Not something from this century at all. This type of flip flop on present versus past made the performance look sloppy. Also, at points some of the comedic characters would burst out into modern songs (i.e. Britney Spear’s and Will. I. Am.’s new mix “Scream and Shout”). While entertaining, it wasn’t very relevant to the play or even that particular scene.
I was impressed with the amount of actors in the performance itself. I knew the play had a lot of characters but there were almost as many actors. In such a small space, this very much impressed me. One thing that was confusing about it however is that some actors with smaller roles played more than one role. I understand the need for this but (again because it was Shakespeare) it was confusing to differentiate these different smaller characters. Perhaps this was because the characters were dressed similarly or acted similarly, or that their names were pretty much thrown into the wind, but any way you put it, I was very confused with the smaller roles of the play and their purposes.
Lastly, the songs in the play. Having not read the play, I don’t know how many of these songs were actually called for in the text, but from a personal view they got very old very fast and did not hold much entertainment value for me. The singer was talented, but his songs did not flow well with the music accompaniment and dragged on for a while. I do not know what it is with all the plays I have seen, but they all have included some form of song (musicals obviously need it so i’m excluding them from my wrath) and it is extremely annoying to me. Plays do not need songs, some sort of background music may be appropriate, but random song interludes are not the answer to jazzing up an otherwise lackluster performance.
One of this play’s saving graces are the comedic characters; Mary, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew. These actors were extremely hilarious (one even coming out in his first scene in a kangaroo suit complete with young joey). It was very entertaining to watch them and mildly disconcerting when they got so close to my bench that I feared I would trip them or they would wrestle and one would ultimately land on me. This play was very entertaining, but judging it from a critical view points out many of its flaws. One last positive thing I have to say about it was that I was truly captivated for (most of) the whole performance, and didn’t realize that the play had lasted from 7:30 to 10:15. For not making Shakespeare something to be suffered through, I salute you people of the Lion and Unicorn Pub! ahem.. Theatre!