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Twelfth Night

Jennifer Howes



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.