Gender-Bending Shakespeare?! Twelfth Night at the National Theatre

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the National Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night in London. It’s one of my favourite Shakespeare plays – as a twin myself I’ve always been drawn to it – so I was pretty excited to see what the National would do with it (and wow, it did some very interesting stuff!).

The big selling factor for this production was the decision to change character’s genders: specifically, making Malvolio female – played by Tamsin Greig. In a play that is already fascinated with gender and sexuality, this seemed an interesting, but not foolish, decision. (Well at least, I think so, since its a part of my dissertation topic for next year!) They even changed the character’s name to ‘Malvolia’ for the female inflection, and referred to her as ‘madam’, rather than ‘sir’. Naturally this had quite a big impact on the play and production as a whole; I was especially hit with the realisation that by using a female Malvolia, it changes the humour of the play that comes from gender and sexuality confusion.

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Malvolia (Tamsin Greig)

Malvolia’s belief that her mistress could be in love with her brings with it a suggestion of Olivia as not heterosexual – that she could have feelings for the ‘male’ Cesario or a female Malvolia. It was still funny nevertheless, particularly Olivia fanatically pining after (as well as physically chasing and falling over) for her unrequited lover, Cesario/Viola. I did still find the comedy reduced a bit as a result of the change in gender but I think that’s the result of my own curiosity.

Malvolio was not the only male character changed to female in this production though: Fabian, Feste, and the chorus of Olivia’s household were all female. I really liked this, as it emphasised the unwanted presence of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, as the only men in a powerful female’s home (also yay, girl power!).

 

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Olivia and her female gang (Phoebe Fox and co.)

As can be expected from the NT, the performances were all pretty strong. Tamsin Greig has been the focus of much of the production’s acclaim, and I agree that she was great – her contrast between the uptight lady to the exuberant and mad outcast was impressive (and all the more hilarious). However, I don’t think she was the only stand-out performance: Andrew and Toby were also brilliant. They were super funny, and I thought their characterisation, as both individuals and a double-act, suited the production perfectly.

A beautiful, modern yet timeless setting filled the stage, which was very cleverly designed to be versatile and fluid between the many changes in setting of the play – despite the relatively busy set.

Overall, I really liked this production and I’m so glad I got to see it live onstage for myself (thanks mum!).

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Cesario vs. Sir Andrew (Tamara Lawrance/Daniel Rigby)

Photos by Marc Benner, from National Theatre website: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/twelfth-night

 

Second Year = Complete!

I’ve finished my second year of university! I can’t believe it! This has been a super crazy year, especially this last term which I feel like has gone super quickly (but at the same time when I look back, it seems like the term started so long ago…).

I feel like I’ve developed a lot this term, both personally and academically. I haven’t got my essay results back yet, but I think (hope) that my writing has improved a lot over the year. It was nice this year that I had a lot of freedom with my assessments, being able to choose what texts and topics of what I write about – I feel like this really helps me, to enjoy my writing (at least to start with, before I actually need to write it all) and therefore write better.

I’m also just a lot happier this year – living with my friends and feeling less stressed about work (despite this year actually counting towards my degree, and all my extra curricular stuff, including being in a show at the theatre and my placement at the Derby Book Festival!). But maybe I’m just forgetting all the bad stuff.

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Perks of spending a lot of time at the theatre on campus in the run-up to a show…!

I’m so excited for the summer holidays now though – I’ve already started reading my own choice of books. (It’s the little things, ya know?). Now all we need is some more sun!


 

The Glass Menagerie

I saw The Glass Menagerie in London a few weeks ago with some friends. I had already read the play by Tennessee Williams as few years ago, as part of my IB studies at school, so I was looking forward to seeing it onstage.

This was such a very good production – the costume, set, lighting, acting, sound, all of it! Williams was very specific in his stage directions about what a production of this show should look like (although he did have quite an over-the-top way of going about his descriptions). So, having studied the play in such detail before going to see this play, it made me particularly aware of the use of these production elements.

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The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

Yes, I know, I’m very late for the train with this one (d’ya get it? Ha!). I kept seeing adverts for The Girl on the Train film adaptation when it first came out in the cinemas, but I knew I didn’t want to watch it until I had read the book – and it has taken me awhile, but I’ve finally read it! (Well, now I know why it’s so popular.)

I’ve read very mixed reviews about this novel since I finished it, but my experience was that I was hooked by this book. Some reviews commented on the characters being too over-the-top, calling them unbelievable, or unrealistic, and repetitive. However, I found their quirky characteristics and repetitive nature was what made them so interesting and real. It created a struggle for me, as a reader, as to who I could trust – the multiple perspectives especially, which allowed for revelations to be delayed even to the last two pages. The character of Rachel caught my interest the most, especially her alcoholism and blackouts that had me struggling between being skeptical of how much she could be trusted and my instinct to believe and trust her.

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Back from Beautiful Barcelona!

I’ve been off travelling again – this time for a few days with family in Barcelona, Catalonia. Before going here, I didn’t really know that there is the difference between Spain and Catalonia (an autonomous community of Spain, with a sense of independence that stemmed from the countries’ history).

There are loads of things to do and see in Barcelona, especially if you’re interested in art and architecture – as this city is the home of work by both Gaudì and Picasso.

Sagrada Familia
This is probably the most famous attraction, and to be honest I can see why! It’s a very grand cathedral, designed by famous architect Gaudì. It’s big, ostentatious but gorgeous (and only going to get bigger with their aim for the construction to be complete by 2026, 100 years after the death of Gaudì). I wasn’t so impressed by the outside; it looked too over-the-top for me, although this impression was probably not helped by the cranes and construction work surrounding it.

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Busy in Bustling Bucharest

Last week I went to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, for a few days – as another birthday present given to me, this one from my boyfriend. I was fascinated by the city; although it was chosen to try and confuse me with when I went to Budapest, it was actually like no other place I have been to before. Both Budapest and Prague felt similar, as much more westernised and touristy cities. Bucharest however is less so – it’s never going to be called a very pretty city (thanks to some concrete communist monstrosities), but it was fascinating to be able to see the Romanian culture so easily, without a screen of tourism for it to hide behind.

Nevertheless, there was still quite a lot to do and see, thanks to its interesting history – with the days made even better by some relatively warm and sunny weather.

Palace of Parliament
This is probably the most popular place to visit in Bucharest. It’s the largest parliament building in the world (we had already seen the second largest), and the second largest building in the world – and it can be seen from the moon! Plus, the construction isn’t even finished on it! We got a tour around, seeing just a few of the many rooms, learning about what they are used for, as well as some more basic history of the country.

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A Weekend in Bristol

I went to Bristol the other week – for a Christmas present to me, as the city is half way between my uni and Alex’s. It’s a rather fascinating place; I’ve never been before except briefly to the university area of the city for an open day.

It was just the right place for us to spend a weekend – quirky, and with enough to see and do to keep us busy. We visited some great tourist hotspots, including the Arnolfini (Centre for Contemporary Arts in Bristol), St Nicholas Market, the Clifton suspension bridge and some Banksy art, as well as just wandering around discovering things for ourselves.

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Some Banksy artwork (hidden in the middle of nowhere!)

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