The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0483 Friday, 10 March 2000.
Date: Thursday, 09 Mar 2000 12:22:05 -0500
Subject: Olivia and the Beast
Comment: SHK 10.1874 Olivia and the Beast
I am way behind on this posting, sorry, but I wanted to disagree with
Ms. Peterson-Kranz's evaluation of the Trevor Nunn <Twelfth Night>. I've
been "listening" on the listserv to the pros and cons of this
production, and also of last year's staging at Lincoln Center, a
production most members seemed to dislike. I can only respond that I
thought the Lincoln Center was the best 12N I have ever seen, live,
taped or adapted for the big screen. I disagree particularly with Ms.
Peterson's Kranz's admiration for the intelligent and "not-ridiculous"
Olivia in the Nunn film (played by Helena Bonham Carter). Carter had her
moments, but she also seemed uncomfortable much of the time,
particularly in the "discovery" of the twins scene, which was very
clumsily directed anyway, with Cesario standing aside and staring
stupidly off into space so that Sebastian may arrive without her
noticing. No one cast member seemed to shine in this producition,
either, though Sir Toby was enjoyable (as his character almost always
The Lincoln Center production, however, despite the director's (anyone
know who?) miscasting of Paul Rudd as Orsino and Helen Hunt as Viola,
was a delight: fast-paced, funny, sexy, tender, with Taymor-designed
sets, I believe (or somebody who's hot right now). Kyra Sedgwick as
Olivia was truly an inspired choice. She grew into the role over the
play's two and a half hours, and did an excellent job, I thought, of
negotiating a dramatic difficulty that has also ( more recently) come up
on the listserv: Olivia's grief. Sedgwick's mourning attire and rituals
were over the top-not a new interpretation, certainly-but Sedgwick kept
her Olivia consistent even as she shed her mourning (and, quite cleverly
in production, her mourning clothes, piece by piece): theatrical,
emotional, adaptable, impatient, and humane.
I don't know who played Toby and Andrew (although the Andrew actor used
to be the father on <Alf>, I think), but they were the best I've ever
seen. Not a first-rate Malvolio, but certainly a better one than Nunn's.
Although 12N reads well when taken in slowly and meditatively (even
sadly), I've never seen a moody production work well. The most
successful performances I've seen have always been quick, bright, and
sexy. Nunn's is too slow and gloomy, and so is, I think, Branagh's 12N.
(whose name could open another kettle of fish for me, but I'm sure he'll
come back up on the list soon enough).
I loved the Lincoln Center <Twelfth Night>!
God, that feels