Tuesday, 14 June 2016 20:18

Words, words, words ...

Written by

Keyboard & quillMalvolio’s Downfall
Adapted by Joan Nordlund from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Staged by Christian Jull

Featuring (in order of appearance): Christian Jull (Sir Toby Belch); Anna Rawlings (Maria); Marietta Chela (Fool); Hosanna Megumi (Olivia); Daniel McMullen (Malvolio).

The RStC were facing a dilemma. We had long since set Yasmina Reza’s The God of Carnage, translated by Christopher Hampton, as our major production for Autumn 2016. The plan was to enter into a joint venture with Soupe Troupe, a like-minded theatre group, but circumstances intervened and this was not possible. The God of Carnage would stand alone if necessary, but then we remembered The Bard.

In fact, we have been reminded of him on numerous occasions in 2016, the 400th anniversary of his death. There was a strengthening conviction among us that we should offer our audiences a Really Small tribute to Shakespeare, something different from what we have seen during the past 12 months.

We know that Shakespeare tells a good story - several good stories in many plays, that he draws colourful characters, that he had people rolling in the aisles (sic) of The Globe, and that his way with words is inimitable. Here was our starting point: tell a good tale, add some earthy humour and be faithful to the text. So far, so good.

We set limits of 30-40 minutes, including all business, and five characters. The idea was to follow one plot line that would engage and make sense to the audience. Having seen many excellent performances of Twelfth Night, I came to the conclusion that this play might be the answer, and in particular the plot line involving Malvolio and his yellow stockings. I downloaded the freely available script, and went through it Act by Act extracting all the scenes involving Sir Toby Belch and his cronies and their plotting against Malvolio. From the wealth of material this produced I gradually cut the text down to 50 minutes shared among five characters, trying to maintain continuity and coherence. We reluctantly decided to cut the prison scene, although keeping some references to it, to arrive at the desired 30 minutes. The text is as Shakespeare wrote it, perhaps with the addition of the odd ‘Get thee three hence’, and the order of events is as in the original. We are having our first reading of this working version on July 21: I’m a tad nervous ...

Whatever happens between now and October 13, this has been a labour of love for me. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be Love’s Labour Lost!!

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