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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0909.  Wednesday, 4 December 1996.

(1)     From:   Bernice W. Kliman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 10:35:12 -0500
        Subj:   Trevor Nunn Twelfth Night

(2)     From:   Jung Jimmy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Dec 1996 11:09am
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0899  Q: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*

(3)     From:   Corrie Zoll <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 13:11:13 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0905 Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*

(4)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 14:46:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Nunn's Night


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bernice W. Kliman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 10:35:12 -0500
Subject:        Trevor Nunn Twelfth Night

I did love the settings, both indoors and out--the autumnal colors and harvest
vignettes, full of lushness and also a faint hint of coming decay. The
cliifside ocean was a wonderful recurring image to remind us of the first
scene.  I found the Duke's soldiers utterly chilling.  The whole was realistic,
I thought, beginning with the first scene, which explains what these two
orphans are doing on board a ship anyway. Film is the realistic medium, after
all, and unless a director does something like what Olivier did in *H5* or for
that matter what Luhrman does in *Rom.* it's probably a good idea to give in to
that surface realism.  Duke Orsino's broken arm was another good
touch--explaining perhaps his sending of emissaries to Olivia. Another was the
fencing lessons that all the Duke's men engage in--with Cesario pushing off the
fencing master's grip on her chest (that, and the sigh of relief when she
unbinds the wrapping around her bosom).

I also found the twins, though played by female and male, believable, even in
closeup.  And I am so glad that Sebastian and Cesario-Viola DO embrace, even
though she tells him not to embrace her.  Some dark colorations are absent such
as the information Sh. throws in at the end that the Captain has been
imprisoned at Malvolio's suit. Other dark elements were, of course, fully
present--including Antonio slipping away, Toby's terrible rejection of Sir
Andrew (not completely justified, as I see it, in the folio with its ambiguous
punctuation)#, Malvolio's departure, and Feste's. Ben Kingsley brought out the
quirkiness of the role, and for once Fabian was enough different from Feste to
warrant his introduction.

I loved it.  I think it is a great gift to us as Shakespeare teachers.  I have
felt the lack of a good TN on film; now we'll have it.  NO doubt it will be on
video ere long. Its rejection by various film critics is inexplicable, to me.

# a note on Toby's line:  In the folio it is

Will you helpe an Asse-head, and a cox-combe, & a knaue, a thin fac'd
knaue, a gull?

in response to Sir Andrew's

Ile helpe you sir Toby, because we'll be drest to-gether.

Even with the modern punctuation they saw in their various modern editions, my
students did not want to see Toby's line as applying to Sir Andrew. They
thought that Toby was talking about himself: all his plots have turned on him.
I ask them what they do, then, with "thin-fac'd" but they shrug that off;
that's simply an insult, not to be taken literally.

Bernice W. Kliman

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jung Jimmy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Dec 1996 11:09am
Subject: 7.0899  Q: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0899  Q: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*

Like John King, I was also wondering how we lost track of 12th Night, "amidst
all the clamor about the Luhrmann Romeo & Juliet."  Unlike John I can't say I
thought it was a hundred times better.

Where R&J leapt about with those MTV-style splices that have been discussed so
often, 12th night seemed to drag with one scene being stretched into three of
four locations.  I dozed during Malevolio's discovery of the letter (but in all
fairness, I just pulled much of an all-nighter)

With the exception of Viola, I had no sympathy for the characters, which was
not the case with R&J, which is a surprise, because I am a fan of both Kingsley
and Bonham Carter.

This one's too fast; this one's too slow; does that mean Hamlet's gonna be
"just right"?

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Corrie Zoll <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 13:11:13 -0500
Subject: 7.0905 Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0905 Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*

Walking up to the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis, the Marquee described Trevor
Nunn's *Twelfth Night* as "Gender-Bending Madcap Comedy".  I found it to be
neither, but this is more a criticism of the moviehouse than of the film.

Like Chris Stroffolino, I did not mind the addition of the storm scene at the
beginning of the film.  In fact, since I was expecting gender-bending madcap
comedy, I loved the layers of sexuality heaped upon the twins:  They are
performing on board the boat, both dressed as Arabian princesses.  They sing,
and one of their voices suddenly drops an octave.  Their audience laughs.
Viola removes Sebastian's veil, revealing his moustache.  Sebastian removes
Viola's veil, revealing that she, too, is wearing a moustache.  More laughter.
Sebastian peels away Viola's moustache.  Viola reaches out as if she's going to
peel away Sebastian's moustache when there is a jolt and the captain (looking
much like Ned Beatty as Cap'n Andy in the current touring production of
*Showboat*) rushes to 'man' the lifeboats.

This introduction led me to expect more exploration of the layered gender roles
of these two characters.  Alas, there was none that I could see.  A deeper
awareness on the part of Olivia that she had fallen in love with a woman would
have been nice, but this production even underplays the homosexual subtext in
the relationship between Sebastian and Antonio.  We do see Orsino and Cesario
lean in for a kiss, but they do not, and in any case Feste is watching.  As we
later learn, Feste knows about Viola's disguise all along, and as our chaperone
might have kept us from viewing any actual homoerotic contact.

As with other productions of *Twelfth Night*, the cruelty displayed toward
Malvolio by Toby, Mariah, Andrew, and Fabian seems too much.  Do you suppose an
Elizabethan audience would have seen Malvolio as a stock character and would
have better understood why he deserved his comeuppance than an audience
expecting each character to exist exclusively within the givin production?

ps- Anyone in the Minneapolis area interested in attending a monthly
Elizabethan drama reading group, please contact me at 
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-Corrie Zoll

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Dec 1996 14:46:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Nunn's Night

Having finally seen it myself, I have to applaud Nunn's efforts with Twelfth
Night.  I have a lot of reservations, however, since he has explicitly left out
any and all material which would disagree with his dark vision of the play.

Take Richard Grant's Aguecheek, for instance.  My impression when I played the
role was that he was egotistical, and well deserving of ridicule.  The same
goes for Malvolio.  When Nunn decided to make these two characters thinking,
feeling human beings he went well beyond the Bard's intentions, and made Sir
Toby into a mere psychopath, a prototype of Bill Sykes.

Not that the film doesn't hold together, and certainly the reunion at the end
of the film brought tears to my eyes, it was exquisite.  But all the
sensitivity he brought to roles who were unfeeling, egotistical dolts left me a
bit cold.

Yes, Ben Kingsley is very god, and isn't it great to hear him sing?  It's also
nice that the composer did such a fine job re-setting the music. The tunes they
came up with for the Joan Plowright/Alec Guiness/Ralph Richardson Twelfth Night
were so saccherine it almost made me ill.

Andy White
Urbana, IL
 

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