“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, … “
Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night, Shakespeare
By Sophia Whitfield
What is it that still draws us to Shakespeare over and over again?
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night currently being performed at the Globe Theatre in London, with an all male cast, sold out within five minutes. Reviewers have been asked not to review the play until it moves on to the Apollo Theatre in the West End on November 2 where it will be playing until February next year.
Twelfth Night is a romantic, celebratory play, full of the ridiculous with its very particular style of wit. Shakespeare is currently enjoying another resurgence with the World Shakespeare festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad.
Audience members have braved rainy weather to stand and watch this latest performance, which includes Stephen Fry as the pompously austere Malvolio and Mark Rylance as Olivia. Who wouldn’t pay to see Stephen Fry play the fool in yellow stockings and cross- gartered?
The play is performed as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time, an all male cast in Jacobean costume with traditional instruments. It seems that audience members are thrilled with this back to basics Shakespeare.
Over the years Shakespeare has been retold in a variety of forms. The BBC ShakespeaRe-told series featured James McAvoy depicting Macbeth as a chef, handy with a knife, and Damian Lewis (Homeland) playing the modern Benedick, a morning TV host, in Much Ado About Nothing.
Whether a contemporary piece or traditional, audiences are still flocking to see performances. Over 400 years later Shakespeare still has relevance today.
Shakespeare gave us timeless themes of tragedy, romance, farce and humour. But it is perhaps the poetry of his language that still resonates with audiences around the world.
There are great speeches that most can quote, such as Prospero’s final speech in the Tempest in which he likens himself to a playwright.
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air: …”
It is Hamlet that provides us with the greatest soliloquy as he explores the meaning of life and death.
“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. …”
For those lucky enough to have tickets to The Globe they will hear Stephen Fry as Malvolio reading aloud Maria’s letter.
“If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon 'em. …”
Malvolio then transforms himself, at Maria’s behest, into an all-smiling lackey wearing yellow stockings and cross-gartered. Who, today, hasn’t transformed themselves in the name of love or been witness to such a transformation.
Shakespeare was ahead of his time.
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