Ordinarily, I don’t like Valentine’s day. It’s all very much commercialized hearts and flowers; I would be at home, in a sulk and watching box sets.
Not this year.
I decided to stop with the sulking, fly solo and indulge in one of the many things that make me happy. I went to see Shakespeare.
Not just your average Shakespeare show, either. I saw a live relay of Twelfth Night. (MAC Birmingham, you are awesome as always; spending my childhood there, this was a welcome return visit.)
I am no stranger to Stratford-upon-Avon, and over the last three years I’ve watched quite a bit of the canon. Greg Doran et al have done a cracking good job. Sadly, I was a bit slow off the mark getting tickets for Twelfth Night in Stratford; so when news broke that it would be relayed live, I might have jumped a bit. Putting my membership of Sgt.Pepper’s lonely hearts club to one side, I forgot that it was booked for Valentines night.
The fact that Ade Edmondson was part of it, did rather make me smile. I grew up with re-runs of ‘The Young Ones’ and know of Bottom and Hotel Paradiso. I had intrigue as to how he might tread the boards. Beyond that, I went to the show with an open mind.
Thank goodness, I did!
I didn’t realise the Indian aspect of the production and the late Victorian setting. Two universes don’t collide per se, but merge and combine beautifully. The director and the costume designers have married these two concepts in a really rich, vibrant and effective way.
Then there is the cast.
In the last few years, there has been much said about the lack of BAME actors in theatre, in adaptations/productions of Shakespeare. This cast, was epic. I’ve yet to see an RSC production that isn’t diverse, doesn’t include BAME actors and doesn’t celebrate diversity. This production is more than Ade Edmonson’s Malvolio-he is truly extraodinary, though-there is a lady of Asian Ascent in a lead role-has been done before in midsummer’s night dream. The fool-Beruce Khan-is cracking good comic relief. Belch and Aguecheek need their own sitcom.
Twelfth night really is about love turning the world upside down. The themes of falling in love with the wrong person, the wrong person being in love with you, being wronged by love when people quite literally mess with your head-Poor Malvolio-then there is gender, identity and sexuality. Shakespeare toyed with topics that four hundred years later are still in debate.
Watching this show, I laughed; I forgot that it was Valentines day. Remembered, that I love Shakespeare, that it reflects the world that I live in. This was wonderfully crafted, yet simple and effective production. I’m glad that I saw it, I’m glad that the cast was diverse. Dinita Gohil is great as the disguised Viola and a true inspiration with Beruce Khan, who wouldn’t be out of place in a Bollywood GOT. These two cast members really stood out for me as inspiration for future generations of BAME actors who want a place on the Shakespearean Stage.
Twelfth night really was a cracking good show. Strongly recommend you watch it. That you love, laugh and live it.
One episode of Shakespeare down, two more to go.