The inspired choice at the heart of this beautiful realization of Shakespeare’s vision in Twelfth Night is the creation of Illyria, the neverland in which Shakespeare set the play. There was no Illyria in Shakespeare’s time, and really had been no such nation since Roman times. Whatever Shakespeare was going for, it was not constricted by any realities contemporary to him. This meant that director Gavin Witt was free in turn to fashion something that in 21st-Century terms would correspond to Shakespeare’s fantasy. And what he presents is a kind of amalgam of the Marx Brothers’ Freedonia and the Warner Brothers’ Casablanca. There are slinky evening gowns you might see at Rick’s Café Americain. There is a hat that echoes a fez. There is an outfit like a Greek soldier’s. Sebastian and Viola wear plus-fours and Norfolk jackets, topped with newsboy hats. The costumes, by designer David Burdick, all fit together and, together with the set by Josh Epstein which suggests a colonnaded white town overlooking the Adriatic (locus of the ancient Illyria), convey a world between the two World Wars. It is at once idyllic and dangerous.
Posts Tagged ‘Downton Abbey’
That is the ultimate temptation inherent in turning classic plays into vehicles for screen stars. Those stars pull in audiences filled with the uninitiated, with people who fundamentally do not know how to watch a play, and who are too easily satisfied. Commercial success can be achieved with something half-baked. And half-baked seems to be more the norm than the exception with the successes that do result. Classic plays tend to require directorial shaping; stars tend to tempt directors to slack off. It’s not a good thing.