Sunday, 20 February 2011

Make of it what you will

Finally, the first theatre trip of 2011 happened. Yesterday. Nothing wrong with that, except for two and a half months is a very lengthy time to have not taken in a single play. Also, this happened to be my busiest weekend of the year so far.

Anyway, the more observant of you would have gleaned from the title that the play in question is "Twelfth Night", and the production Peter Hall's 80th birthday celebration at the National Theatre.

As a matter of fact, it was my very first visit to the Cottesloe. I was already unimpressed by the persistent drizzle, so you can imagine my irritation when I had just taken off my coat and put away my umbrella, only to find that I would indeed have to leave the foyer to walk halfway round the building to get to the venue. Still, I at least managed to spot the location of the stage door.

On the subject of stage doors, I have never really been a stage door hanger, as one of my friends affectionately calls them. I could never see the attraction of standing in the freezing cold amongst millions of other screaming fans for the only reward to be a brief squiggle from a performer onto a soggy programme. Now, though, my opinion has shifted ever so slightly. Subsequent to receiving a wonderful personalised letter from Jenna Russell, I am intending to meet her by the stage door very soon, but only to thank her for going to all the trouble. She probably won't even remember it, and may not even have time to talk, but I just really want to say thank you in person.

Now I have got that off my chest, I will write about the play. "Twelfth Night" was the first Shakespeare that I ever encountered, and remains one of my favourites today. In comparison to the complexity of many of his tragedies, "Twelfth Night" is a light, comedic read which offers even the most reluctant student the chance to recognise Shakespeare's role in shaping the language of today.

With this in mind, I was a little disapointed. The production was good, but it was not amazing. I had never seen any of Peter Hall's work before, and was really looking forward to it, for he is of course one of the best known and decorated directors currently working in British Theatre. However, I actually nearly fell asleep at one point. And this was not to do with the soup I had had for lunch, or the fact that I was seated on the second level and had to lean right forwards onto the bar to see the stage properly.

The delivery was fantastic. The strength of the piece was really brought out by the actors, but at the same time I felt it lacked the sense of unrealisticness (if that is even a word) which I always considered it to have.

I can clearly remember three of the cast members: Rebecca Hall as Viola, Finty Williams as Maria and Simon Paisley Day as Malvolio. The rest of the cast seemed to fade into the background, even Simon Callow, whom I had been really looking forward to seeing. These three seemed to carry the play, and each time one of them was on the stage everything seemed to come alive.

So, a fairly negative first theatre of 2011. It was enjoyable, yes, but just not what I had hoped for.