June 1, 2006, by Peter Kirwan
‘Twelfth Night’ and Director’s Talk (Cheek by Jowl) @ Warwick Arts Centre
It’s been a hectic few days, rounded off by my third play in as many nights, a second viewing of Cheek By Jowl’s ‘Twelfth Night’. Again, it’s a comedy that manages to stay funny a second time round, and even better was the fact that the audience was considerably bigger this time. Also, it was far less tempting the second time to look at the surtitles. I generally try not to in surtitled plays, as I’m always worried I’m missing stuff onstage, but it definitely helps to have seen the play once, as I barely noticed the words above the stage this time!
Tonight, the director and designer, Declan Donnellan and Nick Omerod were in, and gave a post–show talk hosted by the artistic director of the Arts Centre (and my ultimate boss) Alan Rivett.
Declan took the microphone, with Nick chipping in every now and again with thoughts on the processes that had led up to their ‘Twelfth Night’.
Main points of interest included the length and intensity of Russian theatrical runs– the general approach in the culture is one of hardworking ensemble groups who are very focussed on their work– something the directors learned to appreciate!
This particular production has been touring since 2003, and is based on a Russian verse translation from the 1920s. It’s the second all–male Russian production that Declan and Nick have done, and they approached the cross–dressing elements deathly seriously– they didn’t want that to be funny in itself. This was emphasised later in the evening, when Declan and Nick took bows with the company after the performance, and then Declan brought the three ‘female’ actors forward for extra applause.
The final interesting bit of debate from the night was something Declan had found while in Russia. He believes that the most important thing in a production is the space between the performers and their relationships with each other. In Russia, he found that there were people who were considered to be phenomenal actors but couldn’t work well with others, while he believes that you can only be a good actor by working well with others– that’s the most essential part for him.
A very interesting talk, and although it didn’t shed much light on the production, it gave yet another perspective on presenting Shakespeare and on the processes that lead up to creating a play.
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