These two reviews were actually rather pleasing to read. Being somewhat brief (a necessity due to the need not to give away anything too early) they were, on the whole, very appreciative of the two separate performances seen by the judges. The only critical aspects were a couple of directional choices which I therefore am happy to take completely on me. My cast were brilliant and it was wonderful to see no negative concerns regarding any of them.
I set out with a specific goal in mind, to demonstrate that Twelfth Night was a wonderful comedy, not a melodrama as it is so often portrayed. In that, I believe we were entirely successful. The number of genuine and unsought for remarks that patrons did not realise that the play was that funny and fast paced was incredible. This too was reflected in the reports from the two adjudicators.
Orsino, the character upon which much of my direction choice was made, is frequently portrayed as a melancholic romantic type whom is more love-sick than head-over-heels in lust, yet this character opens the play. His first scene, and most famous speech, "If music be the food of love" are the first thing that audiences see. I see only two ways to play this; either overly dramatic to the point of drama queen, or as a passionate plea to the mysterious gods of love. I went more for the latter having come from a pub where he has been drowning his frustrations with one too many jugs of ale.
By injecting a high level of energy and pace to this opening scene, it set a bar for the rest of the cast to follow, and follow they did. The pace was such that we were able to do the entire script without cutting a single word, officially. Mind you, through a little improvisation and slips, the occasional word may have been lost.
That said, Twelfth Night is not without more serious or poignant moments, such as the heated argument between Orsino and Viola, the incarceration and release of Malvolio and the exchange of heated words between Orsino, Viola and Olivia at the plays end. There is even one instance when the fool of the play, Feste, comes down from his silly antics and wordplay, to berate Malvolio for his thoughtlessness and nasty comments.
Interestingly enough, the most memorable character of the play is, at first meeting, the most annoying. Malvolio, Olivia's steward, starts off being obnoxious, uptight and very condescending. We are not meant to like him. So when he is then given his "just deserts" and locked in a dungeon as a madman, we are then brought to feel sorry for him at the plays end when all that has been done is revealed to him. People have often made the comment to me that they would like to see him have a happy ending. I feel that this would ruin his importance in the play. We are meant to hate him then long for him. Through his journey, he wins our heart and holds it. If he were then to have a happy ending, he would no longer need our love and care.
So why was he written this way? We can only guess, and my guess was to look in to ourselves and see the hypocrisy of human nature. How easy is for a person to put on a façade of arrogance in order to protect themselves from the barbs of the world. How easy it is for that world to fall away when dreams and hopes seems but a small step away. How deep the wound is when, having opened ourselves to the possibility of hope, to then have that hope ripped away from us.
Twelfth Night is a wonderful examination at the strangeness and vulnerability of people. I am glad we were able to play successfully to that message.