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May 14, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Twelfth Night

Produced by THEA302 Victoria University Theatre Students
Tues 15 – Sat 19 May, 7:30pm
Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn
Full $12, Concessions $8
Tickets: 04 463 5221 or e-mail theatre@vuw.ac.nz.

Shakespeare’s famous Twelfth Night is soon to be performed by Third Year Victoria theatre students, and I had the privilege to sit down with the director, Dr. Matt Wagner, and two actors to interview them. The purpose of their class was to investigate Shakespearean conventions and apply them to a performance in modern day. The students had studied Beckett in a previous year, and Matt felt that you cannot forget previous learning and experience, so integrated Beckett as “a major aesthetic,” instead of focusing on just Elizabethan conventions, like most do with Shakespeare. You can artistically expect bowler hats and umbrellas, fantastic lighting and a simplistic but effective set, which is currently under wraps.

Also, as Twelfth Night in itself is one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays, the cast composed their own score to accompany the action onstage. A various number of instruments strung together will create a beautiful atmosphere, a “balance between the pleasurable and the melancholic” – emotions that are, in a way, contagious. They are unanimously felt, when the actors feel joy and laugh, so does the audience, and the same with the melancholic side.

It opens up the idea of “access into the world through music,” a beautiful idea in itself. All the music is live, played by students in the play, both offstage and onstage (in the case of the Court jesters and the Clown), and even the recorded music playing during the intermission is original score recorded by the students.

It may be a bit “haphazard” currently but as Dr Wagner said, the “whole cast is an orchestra!”

The characters themselves should be quite entertaining, and Jeremy, playing Malvolio, explained how, although the characters in the play are a bit stereotypical, they have all branched out to try and add depth to their character as well as provide that comedic relief that comes with caricature. They seem to be having a lot of fun though: on the first day Sophie was told that she was a sexual character, and was instructed to play around with it, and has really enjoyed doing so. This is not to say that it has not been challenging, it has in fact been very intense, only rehearsing for eight weeks. Luckily no major difficulties have arisen so far, which is very rare for such a production, although Matt put it down to the cast being “unanimously dedicated” and “unanimously talented,” a point he acknowledged throughout the entire interview.

When asked why one should come to this play, Matt commented that “it is beautiful.” Although I do believe it will be beautiful; it is not often that you find a play that is truly beautiful in all senses, due to the amazing relationship between the cast, director and set designer, as well as the integrated music and the dedication of all involved. Sophie and Jeremy both joked that everyone in the class either had a love for Twelfth Night itself, or for Dr Matt Wagner, so are all collectively enthusiastic. After all, this guy did get to the final stages of Academic Idol last year. I will definitely be attending Twelfth Night to support all those involved and to witness a beautiful integration of 20th century conventions with Shakespeare, performed by an amazing cast.

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  1. Ali says:

    This sounds like an awesome play! Loved the article :)

  2. Sabrina says:

    This is a very amateur piece of journalistic work and I found the article very hard to follow. You did not grab the readers attention from the outset and there is no synopsis of the play; these are two very important aspects to have in a press release. Don’t assume that the reader knows playwrights or the performers. Full names should have been used and the quotes didn’t assist any points you were trying to make. I’m surprised that this article made it past the editor. I feel uninformed as a reader and this article does not entice me to see the play. Fortunately I know the play Twelfth Night and some of the cast well so I trust that it will be a great production.

  3. Brunswick says:

    Synopsis of the play? It’s Twelfth Night, for God’s sake!

  4. Nade says:

    Oh right, the Bards most famous play! Good god, most students at the university won’t know what it is about, and unless you want only theatre students to turn up I think its wise to provide some idea of what the play entails.

  5. Kelle says:

    Most people (such as myself) will know of Twelfth Night but not know what it’s about. What is accomplished by being elitist about it? Presuming that your audience knows what this play is about just alienates those who don’t. Surely it isn’t the intention of the theatre community to make Shakespeare even less accessible?

    In all honesty I found it very hard to navigate through this article – it doesn’t quite seem to ever make a clear point or have any journalistic qualities. In fact, it resembles a personal letter addressed to those who are already familiar with the inner-workings of this play.

    That said, I still think it’s going to be a wonderful performance and I can’t wait!

  6. Tristan says:

    Sabrina: this is an article, not a press release, and so cannot be expected to simply inform the reader of why they should go to the play. A little comment and digression adds flavour.

    To Kelle, for “What is accomplished by being elitist about it? Presuming that your audience knows what this play is about just alienates those who don’t. Surely it isn’t the intention of the theatre community to make Shakespeare even less accessible?”:

    One of the great things about student journalism is that we know we have a readership consisting of many people with an intelligence, interest in literature and general knowledge far above that of the general population. Thus, while being overly elitist will indeed alienate people, (for example writing “this play disconnencts the audience’s phenomenological attention to the being-as-instrumental of the physical stage by placing the historicality of the play’s setting in an immanent sense of self-awareness”), presuming that the audience knows nothing of Shakespeare’s plots will alienate many other readers.

    Honestly, people asking us to dumb ourselves down further? It’s not like every moderately academic member of this university doesn’t already brush us off as FHM-lite. Sometimes you may read things which you do not 100% understand, but when an article is written as clearly as this you will know where to go and research in order to understand a little better, whether you are led to the net or the library. This is university. It is where you go to learn such things.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to be quite the bitch I am coming across as in this post, and your gripes may perhaps be genuine. Personally, I felt that by not simply giving us an overview of the play’s plot, the article’s author was able to paint a portrait of those behind the play (I don’t actually know the author, I shoud point out). The crucial point, though is this: the magazine could afford to be a little more intellectual, but will lose any sense of connection to the university if it dumbs itself down even one lil’ notch further. And that is precisely what you are asking it to do.

  7. Kelle says:

    Tristan, I have done you the courtesy of thoroughly reading your reply, (which I can only hope you will return this time around) and your level of condescension is, quite simply, insulting.

    Not once did either Sabrina or myself suggest that this should only be a synopsis of the play. We were suggesting that it would have helped considerably. Personally, and I think anyone would agree, reading an article you expect “a little comment and digression”.

    As for the academic readership that you suggest, by all means, be intelligent. I completely agree that Salient is a university publication and all of your points regarding that are valid. However, I was not suggesting that this article be “dumbed down” for that the less intelligent people who may not 100% understand what’s being written. To say that your readership has a “general knowledge far above that of the general population” is, I think, a vast overstatement. University is a place where one generally studies specific areas of interest. This means that all of the people studying theatre or literature will have the general knowledge to fill the gaping holes that this article left. What about the computer science students? Or chemistry? Or design? Or media? Or sociology? Or religion? Or any other non-arts degree, really? Are they of the less intelligent variety? Just because they don’t have interest enough in theatre to know the plot of all of the cannon plays does that mean that they’re not a valid audience member? I consider myself to have an “interest in literature” and yet I’m still daunted at the thought of going into a Shakespeare play not knowing a thing about the plot.

    To reiterate as you seem to have a habit of missing points, I do agree that there is no need to dumb things down, especially in a university publication. As a journalist, though, do you not think that you should try and include as much of your audience as possible? Being intelligent does certainly NOT mean you have to be elite with your writing and a good writer can handle this with no worries.

    Also, including two sentences to introduce the plot of the play will not alienate members of the audience who know the plot already.

  8. Brunswick says:

    It’s not a matter of elitism -the columns have a word limit. if you’re reviewing a new play (or at least, a play new to New Zealand, such as ‘A Bright Room Called Day’), it’s fair enough to devote some space to describing the plot. But there’s so much info about Shakespeare already out there that reviewers tend to focus on what makes this particular production different from the hundreds that have come before it. In this case, the Beckett influence and the live music.

    Perhaps Jennifer should have mentioned that ‘Twelfth Night’ is the one with the twins. Okay, one of the ones with twins. You know, the one they based ‘She’s The Man’ on.

  9. Kelle says:

    I honestly appreciate that there are constraints within an article – word count, etc, and I do see what the article is trying to convey about the play (differences, nuances and all of that) but I stand behind the fact that dedicating even the smallest number of words will avoid leaving people feeling out of the loop.

    Okay, so elitism is the wrong word. Can I say unconscious elitism even though it’s a contradiction of terms? I’m not saying people were deliberately excluded, I am just saying that is what has happened and probably should be something people are more aware of.

  10. Tristan says:

    Kelle – you are right about me being condescending and I apologise – I should probably try not to write rambly posts when I need to sleep, or I turn out sounding like a git. Desole. It’s just that I hear complaints, almost every day, that the magazine is too juvenile, so that when I hear the opposite complaint (that it is too elitist) I guess I become a tad defensive. Which, of course, is silly. Please don’t hate me for being a grumpy guts :(

    Having read the earlier posts, though, the only point that really comes through is that you guys wanted some plot synopsis – Sabrina’s “don’t assume that the reader knows playwrights” and your subsequent argument that the author should dedicate a couple of lines to plot synopsis.

    The thing we need to ask is – what was the aim of the article? Reading it through, it strikes me that the author is attempting to describe a particular production’s approach to the play. In order to achieve this aim in the given space, they presumed the author would either know the play or be able to look it up. I doubt that a couple of lines of synopsis would have hurt the article, though I do not think they would suddenly have added to the article, given that the fact of the plot was not a major focus-point, nor did it need to be.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Hey everyone well I am the one who actually wrote this and was very surprised to be told that comments were being published on it! I take on all your comments, and I do agree that most people know Shakespeare, know Twelfth Night…but maybe I am a bit biased as I studied the movie in year 10 in high school…..but most people (in my point of view) who go to see plays enjoy plays…so have seen plays before…many have studied theatre or have an interest in it….sure many people who see plays are not in that category, but I believe a lot are.

    Thanks for your comments, I did have a word limit which is why it is not that great of an article as there is so much you can say, and I admit my last article was better than this one (on A Bright Room Called Day)….and also to Sabrina’s comment that “This is a very amateur piece of journalistic work”….I am an amateur journalist…this is my second article…I would like to see you try.

  12. Eleanor Bishop says:

    As editor of the theatre pages I can tell you what the point of this article is:
    – To draw attention to the theatre happening at our very own university – in the theatre department! I feel the Salient theatre pages has a very important role to play in supporting the University Theatre Department.
    – To encourage people to go to see the show by describing the very interesting angle the cast and crew have taken with the play – the Brechtian aesthetic plus their live music.

    And as always, Salient functions to give opportunities to student writers.

    Well done Jen, I think it’s a great article.

  13. Eleanor Bishop says:

    Oh, and to Sabrina, since you seem to know so much about the production and are already going to see the production then this article really isn’t for you. It’s to inform possible viewers.

    P.S Sabrina, feel free to contact me if you would like to write articles and do interviews with people about theatre. Since you seem to know so much about how they should be done. Be sure to send me a writing sample. Let’s hope it’s not ‘amateur’ and ‘hard to follow’.

  14. uncultured says:

    Considering Sabrina’s comment had more structure and flow than the article in its entirety perhaps she could write a better article.

    I don’t know anything at all about the Twelfth Night, I don’t normally go to plays but I would have liked to have seen this one – see, not all of your potential audience are Shakespeare experts!

  15. Michelle says:

    Well uncultured if you don’t see plays and you know nothing about twelfth night…why would you have wanted to go see this one if (this is of course…if you dont know anyone in the cast or didnt have a friend that was going) the article regarding it was so poorly written that you couldn’t understand it….what would have been the incentive?

    I honestly think it is actually quite humorous how people are getting worked up about a theater article….And seeing as Sabrina knew people in it she wouldn’t have needed to read this article to be enticed by it. I personally read it and enjoyed the article, so chose to go to Twelfth Night because it prompted me to.

    And ‘uncultured’…its ‘Twelfth Night’, not ‘the Twelfth Night’…so obviously because you couldn’t even realize the name of the play I highly doubt you have read the article fully or the rest of the comments…sure you aren’t Sabrina pretending to be someone else or one of her friends just trying to back her up without realizing what you are talking about?

    And it is much easier to structure pointless and idiotic ranting than an actual article of 500-600 words as Jennifer has done above. Also seeing as the theater editor Eleanor Bishop above said that Jennifer did a good job, do we not take her opinion on board? Or do you think your opinion and experience is better than hers?

    If you think Sabrina could do a better job…hunt her down (or tell yourself…) to give it a shot…I am sure she has a few critics already

  16. Holden Iscariot says:

    Nice one Eleanor,
    for a Theatre Editor, and one who seems so vocal about the choices made in printing this article, you don’t know a lot about the play.
    Brechtian? Nope. We aren’t talking German here, we’re talking Irish. Samuel Beckett? Heard of him?
    Perhaps you should be defending yourself, rather than Jen, whose work was at least accurate.
    H.I.

  17. Sarah says:

    This was a great article. Jen you are amazing…and if all these other people would just get their heads out of their bums they would realise how amazing you are too. However, the likelihood of them getting over themselves seems very slim, so you just ignore them Jen! The article was great and anyone who matters knows that!!

  18. Eleanor Bishop says:

    Apologies Holden, I did of course mean to type “Beckettian”.

  19. Tyler Perry says:

    Flawed as it was at least this article was more entertaining than the show to which it pertrains.

  20. Tyler Perry says:

    Flawed as it was at least this article was more entertaining than the show to which it pertains.

    Personally I didn’t think that a balance between the pleasurable and the melancholic equalled bland overlong monotonic underacting within a forced hamfisted disrespectful “concept” but Captain Wagner certainly proved me wrong.

  21. Holden Iscariot says:

    I think I just fainted.
    H.I.

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