Living as we do in a world where the Christmas tree comes down on Christmas afternoon and goes out to the curb the following day, it feels a bit strange writing about January in April, but it must be done.
Up next in Britain’s National Theatre HD series is Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night.” We call Twelfth Night the Feast of the Epiphany when we call it at all, but we are certainly familiar with it, as in the popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Shakespeare’s play was written as an entertainment for the festive occasion that closed the Christmas season. Also at the same time of the year was the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, during which the normal social order, including gender, was inverted.
All of this we see in Shakespeare’s play, which is rife with disguise, mistaken identify and other confusions. Scholars will recognize these devices as some of Shakespeare’s favorites, especially in the comedies.
Since 1602 this comedy has been one of Shakespeare’s most beloved, and on Sunday it will be broadcast here at Macon’s Douglass Theatre.
The National Theatre’s current production of “Twelfth Night” features modern dress, and the gender confusion is heightened by the fact that the sourpuss Malvolio has become Malvolia, played by Tamsin Greig.
There are lots of characters, and the disguises make them tough to keep up with, but basically, Viola and her twin brother Sebastian have been shipwrecked. When Sebastian is believed lost, Viola disguises herself as the boy Cesario and sets out to explore.
Meanwhile, we learn that Sebastian is not lost. Further confounding matters, several comic characters — Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek among them — enter to add to the merriment. At the close, all are happy except Malvolia, but she has the honor of provoking the most famous lines in the play when Toby Belch demands of the sanctimonious everywhere, “Dost thou think, because thou are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”