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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Her C's . . .
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1685  Wednesday, 24 July 2002

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 14:48:08 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 09:31:37 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

[3]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 14:28:26 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

[4]     From:   Michael Shurgot <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 11:55:40 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

[5]     From:   John-Paul Spiro <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 15:59:00 -0400
        Subj:   Malvolio Hunting

[6]     From:   Michael Yawney <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 18:02:38 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

[7]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 10:03:26 +0800 (SGT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

[8]     From:   Judi Wilkins <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jul 2001 21:27:54 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 14:48:08 GMT0BST
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

I can't see Olivier, Gielgud or Branagh doing it.

But Olivier at least did play Malvolio, at Stratford in the 1950s.

David Lindley
University of Leeds

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 09:31:37 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

Olivier did play Malvolio. I don't recall if I've read about Gielgud
playing it.

The part has been considering by some to be the lead ever since the play
received a second alternative title during the Restoration. It was often
referred to as Malvolio.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 14:28:26 -0400
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

  Clifford Stetner asks,

I read recently that Malvolio was played by/written for Burbage.
.....modern productions usually cast actors one wouldn't expect to see
playing Hamlet or Othello in the part. I can't see Olivier, Gielgud or
Branagh doing it.  Does this role indicate a level of self-satire on the
part of the great tragedian?

Gielgud played Malvolio at the Old in 1931, Olivier Malvolio at
Stratford in 1955.

Both Olivier and Gielgud played Sergius in Arms and the Man, and many
other comic characters whose excesses make them the butt of jokes.
(Shallow, Hotspur....)  All 3 of them played Benedict in multiple
productions.  I'd certainly pay to see Branagh in the part!

IMHO, great actors are fearless, and frequently on the knife-edge of
risibility.    They dare you to laugh at how far they go, at the
audacity of their imagination.  Actors who can ride that edge or tumble
over the edge into a pratfall are not rare.  What's rare is a career
that allows an actor to do both-- high tragedy and low comedy.  (type
casting is primrose path, tempting actor, management, and audience to do
for the easy way that leads to stultification)  Again, IMHO, you can't
play Shakespeare at all unless you can play comedy.  If there's no comic
stuff in your character, in the scene, you should probably assume that
you are missing something, and rehearse until you find it.

This may not be a popular opinion.  At the Branagh movie of "Hamlet", a
friend and I were audibly enjoying some of the Prince's jokes, which
Branagh with his theatre-based timing delivers with a tiny pause for
laughter.  The elderly couple in front of us were so upset they turned
round and glared and admonished us: Be quiet!  What are you laughing
at?  This is Shakespeare!

Geralyn Horton
actor, playwright, critic
selected writings online at
<www.Stagepage.org>

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 11:55:40 -0700
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

This idea seems completely nutty to me. I see the Ashland festival every
year, and I have just returned from seeing there a disastrous Macbeth.
The principal problem was that Libby Apple cast a comic actor, G.
Valmont Thomas, as Macbeth, and Thomas simply could not probe the role
he was assigned. He skimmed the surface of every one of Macbeth's
soliloquies, and had zero stage presence as a tragic figure. While
generalizations and analogies are often dangerous, I would argue that
only a very few actors can cross genre lines effectively, and I can't
imagine Burbage being able to play a cynical creep like Malvolio. Nor
could Olivier play the role, I would venture to guess.

I expect to get hammered on this opinion, but the more I see repertory
companies (Ashland and elsewhere), the more convinced I am that very few
actors can play WELL all parts of the
tragical-comical-historical-pastoral spectrum.

Cheers,
Michael

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John-Paul Spiro <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 15:59:00 -0400
Subject:        Malvolio Hunting

John Gielgud DID play Malvolio, at least once.  Olivier once played Sir
Toby Belch (a role easier identified with Ralph Richardson), probably
because Sir Toby has the most lines in the play.

Branagh has not played Malvolio but he directed Richard Briers to good
reviews in the part.  I haven't yet found a reference for Burbage as
Malvolio, though he did play Shylock, a role that has almost always gone
to leading men.  (Who else should they play?  Bassanio?  Antonio?)  I
think we have too narrow an idea of the "leading man" role, thinking
that size is everything.  Malvolio gets several wonderful comic moments,
and he may be a satire of Ben Jonson--all the more reason to play him.

I once saw the wonderful Irish poet Eamon Grennan do the role in a
production with Don Foster as Orsino.  Those were the days.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Yawney <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jul 2002 18:02:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

In response to not being able to see Olivier, Gielgud, and Branaugh (?)
playing Malvolio, it should be pointed out that Olivier did indeed play
Malvolio during the 1950s. In fact, he played a great many comic roles
ranging from Shallow to Mr. Puff in The Critic--which was half of a
double bill. (The other half was Oedipus, leading to the production
being refered to as Oedipuff.) That his comic turns are forgotten it is
perhaps simply because it is easier for critics and biographers to
describe what makes a tragic performance great than to describe what
makes a comic one great.

If Olivier played Shylock with a great dignity, it should be noted that
it was in the seventies, when comic Shylocks were still out of fashion
and rarely seen anywhere.

And if Gielgud did not play Malvolio, he certainly should have. The
character seems conducive to the same dry humor he demonstrated from his
Importance of Being Earnest to his late film appearances.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 10:03:26 +0800 (SGT)
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

Of course, Malvolio in the end thinks of himself as tragic, so the part
lends itself to a actor with a taste for parody.  And one of Olivier's
specialties in rep was alternating major tragic roles with 'minor' comic
ones: Hamlet or Othello one night, Shallow the next.  Quite a lot has
been written over the years about analogies between _Hamlet_ and _TN_.
Malvolio -- a solemn, bumbling would-be usurper -- more resembles
Claudius, however, than Hamlet, whose Twelfth Night alter ego is surely
Feste, another melancholic/satiric revenger.

Arthur Lindley

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judi Wilkins <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jul 2001 21:27:54 +1000
Subject: 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1679 Re: Her C's . . .

Olivier (if not Gielgud and/or KennieB) did famously play Malvolio, with
his then wife Vivien Leigh as Viola in a production of 12th Night in
the1954-5 season at Stratford.  Their performances together in that
season included the Macbeths ('you must be married to play the
Macbeths', said Sybil Thorndike) and the title role and Lavinia in
TAndronicus. 12th Night was directed by Gielgud, and in Olivier's words,
'The production, to my great relief rewarded Johnnie G with truckloads
of laurels; my Malvolio was received with much controversy, as I knew it
would be.'  Having played Maria as a schoolboy, he had also played Toby
Belch at the Old Vic in 1936, the occasion, according to photographer
Angus MacBean marked the first of Olivier's many false noses!

Cheers,
Judi

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