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Playreading Report: Twelfth Night, Edinburgh, 7th May

This is the fourth play-reading of Twelfth Night  which we’ve run since we started our play-reading group nearly four years ago. This may be because it’s one of my favourite plays, though in each case I had a reason why we needed to playread it. This time it was because we had just converted the play to our latest format, and added an index to the play so you can easily access all the elements which add to the value of the play beyond the script. If you have a look, you’ll see that index, on the right if you’re using a laptop or a tablet. It’s after the script, if you’re using a mobile phone. Introduction; List of Speaking Characters;  Cast lists for different numbers of players; Let’s Play entries; Video Readings; Articles, DVDs, and our play-reading reports. Click on any of the index entries and the script will be replaced by whatever you’ve clicked on.

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I asked the group if they were getting bored with play-reading Twelfth Night  so much. The consensus was that it was still interesting to read the play again, mostly because we cast by lot, which means you’re very likely to get a different part to read, and each time you read the play,  reading different character(s), you get a different perspective on the play, so we should be good for another four (at least) readings.

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Another aspect of the readings came to the fore as well. One of our players was unavoidably detained by traffic and missed the whole of the first act. When she arrived, I proposed that we recast the play again. The group were not at all happy about this idea. After having read an Act, perhaps they felt committed to their characters. I wanted to re-cast because there’s a good chance that if you just add an extra character to the reading, there’ll be a conflict, with two people reading the same characters. We had been six, and now were seven, so we checked which roles the seventh player of the cast list for seven was playing, and everyone agreed not to play those characters in the cast list for six., and it worked fine. I am not persuaded that it would always work out so well, though there is a rather complicated way of adding an extra player to an already running play reading, but you don’t want to know about that today.

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The play is pretty well perfect for play-reading. There are 7 or 8 principal characters, so everyone gets a good meaty role to play – and a few minor roles. The play is, amongst other things, an exploration of the various forms that love can take, with pretty well all the most common forms included in one way or another. Given this subject matter, it’s not surprising there’s also a theme of madness.

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Initially I was playing Orsino and Maria, but lost Maria to the late-comer, to the disappointment of one of the players, who thought I had an innovative twist to Maria, exploring the  darker side of her character. She is certainly into revenge on Malvolio, even more than Sir Toby.

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In A2S5, there’s an interesting demonstration of the value of Parts and Cues. A2S5 is the famous Box Hedge scene where Malvolio fantasizes about Olivia being in love with him, whilst being overheard by Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian.. It’s a very funny scene, with a lot of the humour coming from the three eaves-droppers coming in with their asides. But what is not so obvious, is how revealing Malvolio’s speech is about his character. We’ve made a Video Reading of Malvolio’s speech in this scene  in Parts and Cues mode, so his speech is not interrupted by the others. You can see the resulting speech by playing the follwoing Video Reading:

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We had thought to make video readings at each play-reading, and we tried it at this play-reading, but it was not successful. The main problem was that I chose a poor scene for recording – the beginning of A3S1 where Viola / Cesario meets Feste, and Feste makes it clear he’s not too keen on Viola.  For a Video Reading to work well, it seems to have to either have very strong emotional content (e.g. ‘It is the cause’, from Othello in A5S1, just before he murders Desdemona); or it must have some interesting interplay between two or more characters (e.g. A2S2 of Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff meets Mistress Quickly).

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So I’m afraid, we don’t have the Feste / Viola scene from A3S1 to show you as a Video Reading. However, I got together two actresses who had played Viola and Olivia for me in a promenade production of Twelfth Night, back in 2012. We recorded quite a few scenes together (more of which later) including a bit later in A3S1, where Olivia declares her love for Cesario / Viola. You can here the result below, perhaps with a smidgen of nostalgia from that production long ago:

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If you like these Video Readings, you can see the ones we’ve published at Video Readings.

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Let’s Play,

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

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If you want to unerstand more about how this web-site can help you explore Shakespeare – and let you explore Shakespeare with a group, go to:

HOW TO USE OUR SITE TO EXPLORE A SHAKESPEARE PLAY

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