For my performance review, I chose Trevor Nunn’s 1996 film production of Twelfth Night. I decided to watch and review the play for its comedic nature and the production for its quality and rave reviews. Immediately, the first thing I noticed while watching the film is how much the visuals add to the entire production. The sets throughout the entirety of the movie, including Nunn’s decision to set the production in what seems to be the 19th century, add new, interesting components that are not part of the original play. Another aspect of the film that added to my enjoyment of the production as a whole were the amount of scene changes when compared to the play. The scene changes kept the pace of the film quicker and allowed numerous beautiful settings to be incorporated into the production. The music throughout the film also added another layer of emotion to the production, something that is often missing from a stage production. The many details and aspects added to this production, because it is a film, made me, personally, enjoy it more when compared to the production value of a staged play.
In addition to the visual and auditory additions to the production, the cast as a whole were truly wonderful and made it clear that they understood Shakespearean language. Firstly, Nigel Hawthorne, who played Malvolio, was fantastic, and his performance stood out the most to me. When I read the play, I imagined Malvolio to be slightly closer to Olivia’s age, but Hawthorne’s performance more than makes up for my own skewed assumptions prior to watching the film. The emotion Hawthorne uses in his performance really made me sympathize with the mislead steward. In addition to Hawthorne’s performance, Imogen Stubbs, who played Viola, Helena Bonham Carter, who played Olivia, and Toby Stephens, who played Orsino each gave wonderful performances, and as main characters, made the entire production extremely enjoyable. Stubbs, as Viola, utilized emotion to her benefit, making the viewer truly feel for her character. Additionally, it is easy to see why Olivia falls in love with Cesario, as Stubbs was extremely adept at accidentally leading her on. While Orsino had less screen time when compared to Viola and Olivia, Toby Stephens still managed to capture Orsino’s whiny nature, while still making him likeable. Lastly, Helena Bonham Carter gave a wonderful performance as Olivia and was able to capture all of the confusion and emotion surrounding a woman who falls in love with another woman who is disguised as a man, only to marry her supposedly drowned twin brother. It was also refreshing to see Helena Bonham Carter playing a role that was not created by Tim Burton. For the sake of my word count, I can’t mention the entire cast, all of whom are wonderful, but out of the secondary cast, Olivia’s entire household gave standout performances, the most memorable of which being Feste, played by Ben Kingsley. Kingsley played the role with a hint of comedy, a decision which allowed his performance as a whole to stand out amongst the cast with his wise sayings, singing, and his trick-playing on Malvolio.
While Trevor Nunn’s production is somewhat silly and the storyline would be extremely unlikely in real life, the cast makes it simply delightful. In addition to the cast, the setting and production value cements the play in the real world, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Scenes such as the duel between Cesario and Aguecheek and when Malvolio tries, and fails, to stand his bike up after chasing after Cesario are so humorous and amusing that the two-hour runtime seemed to fly by, which made me sad to see it end. Speaking of the end, the slight amendments to the end from the original play, such as Malvolio’s injustices being righted and Maria and Toby’s departure, also brought the closure that I originally sought when reading Shakespeare’s play. All-in-all Trevor Nunn’s production of Twelfth Night was an extremely entertaining film that anyone, whether a Shakespeare buff or not, can appreciate.