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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 5. 1967.

Twelfth Night was not altogether Christmas

Twelfth Night was not altogether Christmas

The University Drama Club have lately produced Twelfth Night in the Memorial Theatre. In some senses, it was a creditable production and the actors, though to varying degrees, did very well. Josephine Knight played Olivia with distinction; her acting gave a firm centre to the production. Heather Robb, though occasionally awkward, was clear and intelligent as Viola. Valentino (Timothy Dyee) and Sebastian (Bill Evans) were both pleasant enough. Jack Richards (Feste) was fluent, if giggly, and Michael McGhie, as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, gave one of the few performances that had depth. The comic by-play, in which he was involved with Sir Toby and Maria was often ingenious.

The play was staged with a good deal of dexterity. The moving pillars appropriately suggested both the formality of the action and the illusory area in which its coincidences and formal patterns can credibly operate. Probably the players could have done with additional levels in the centre of the stage—they had only the high platform at the back—but the movement of the pillars precluded this, and in any case they deployed themselves very credibly over the rostra that they had.

The music was excellent—both witty and poignant, appropriate to the Duke's musings, to Feste's quibblings and to the clowning of the drunkards. The musicians played well and sat quiet, a pleasant and useful addition to the spectacle.

Having praised its elements, one is surprised by strong reservations about the production. Nobody really seemed to know what it was about, or to have much conception of the end of all these admirable achievements. The pattern of the play—the juxtaposition of the courtly debate to the comic, and the relationship to both of the dispassionate fool—was obscured. Mistaken identities seemed extravagant, not significant. We were not made aware of the examination of a complex series of attitudes to an experience. Too many of the actors apparently subscribed to the belief that lines are to be spoken, not meant, for their sound, not their argument. Orsino particularly was guilty (though even as a voice beautiful, he quavered a little); and it was for this reason unfortunate that we could not always hear what Sir Toby was saying as well as see what he was doing. A muffled roar is funny only initially, and has the added disadvantage of drowning the words that inspired it.

Michael Hirschfeld's Malvolio suffered from a similar egocentricity; the significance of the character does not reside in the pronounced idiosyncracies of his performance. Over-acting hides: it does not illuminate or please.

There were significant moments. Heather Robb was responsible for a very fine one in her exchange with Orsino, discussing her love as an impossible hypothesis. But she muffed the transition to gaiety, and the moment was gone. Feste's visit to Malvolio in prison was also good. But on the whole, when the revels were at last ended, we were a little puzzled to know what all the fuss had been about.