So it was Shakespeare who started the long standing comedic tradition of
cross-dressing for laughs! Actually the Bard used "Twelfth Night"
as an examination of gender by making Count Orsino's court all male and
Olivia's almost all female. Director Trevor Nunn, previously artistic director
of the Royal Shakespearean Company has assembled a gifted cast to give life
to an unusual story.
Identical twins Viola (Imogen Stubbs) and Sebastian (Steven Mackintosh)
are separated when their shop sinks and each believes the other dead. To
survive in the strange land she washes up in, Viola assumes a male identity
and joins the court of Duke Orsino (Toby Stephens). Orsino is in love with
Countess Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter) and sends Violia who is now Cesario
to woo her. Olivia falls in love with Cesario. To complicate matters Olivia's
household is in an struggle between the officious steward Malvolio (Nigel
Hawthorne) and Olivia's maid, Maria (Imelda Staunton). Going from one household
to another and giving sarcastic comment is the fool, Feste (Ben Kingsley).
Imogen Stubbs carries most of the storyline admirably, making the change
from dainty girl to swaggering military man believable. And Trevor Nunn
gives the sellar cast enough room to make the Shakespearean dialog come
to life. "Twelfth Night" is not to be missed.
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