The night’s just beginning…

twelfth night

A new Bristol Old Vic co-production demonstrates the strength of Shakespeare’s work in its fluidity, says James Higgins.

Bristol Old Vic will be welcoming a gender-bending production of Twelfth Night after its critically-acclaimed run at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. The director, Wils Wilson, has given the play a ‘summer of love’ setting and flipped the script to explore identity, and Shakespeare’s cross-dressing comedy, in a different light.

Shakespeare’s works are revisited time and again, and with each new meeting, directors and audiences bring something new to the Bard’s stories. Whether on stage or screen, fluid interpretations have brought us some of our most beloved Shakespeare productions. From Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, to 10 Things I Hate About You, these films from the 1990s frame not just the original stories, but the decades they represented: the fashions, cultures and values. And they helped launch the faces of some of today’s biggest stars (for better or worse)!

Twelfth Night has attracted queer readings before. Viola – dressed as a shipwrecked man by the name of Cesario – enters the employment of Duke Orsino. In male drag, Viola acts as go-between for the Duke as he woos Olivia. But, most unhelpfully, Olivia falls not in love with the Duke, but with his helpful servant Cesario! What’s more, Viola (or Cesario, as the Duke knows him), falls in love with her employer. This production goes one step further and has cast the central character of the Duke as a woman for a queer exploration of attraction and sexuality.

As the comedy unfolds on stage, compositions from Welsh Music Prize winner Meilyr Jones intertwine early music with contemporary tones to create an audio backdrop that reflects the play’s assimilation of old and new. The cast includes multi-award-winning performer and writer Christopher Green as Malvolio and Lisa Dwyer Hogg (Silent Witness) as Olivia.

When: October 17–November 17

Where: Bristol Old Vic, £10–£39


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