Shakespeare lovers across the country, rejoice! While tickets to see the Bard’s ultimate rom-com of love and loss, Twelfth Night, at The Globe were notoriously hard to come by, as part of a new initiative it’s possible that your local cinema will show the performance on the big screen (and in HD to boot). After a sell-out run at The Globe last year, under Tim Carroll’s expert direction Twelfth Night continued its success in the West End, and will soon be the first Globe performance to make the transition across the pond to New York’s Broadway scene next year – and with 4 Olivier nominations and a stellar cast to back it up, its success with the US audience is practically guaranteed.
In keeping with theatrical traditions of the 1600s, this hysterical production is superbly acted by an all-male cast, in full seventeenth century costume, with more than just a nod to the staging and set design of the original performances. Stephen Fry is hilariously pompous and idiotic as Malvolio; Paul Chahidi’s Maria is pure manipulative genius; but it’s the cross-dressing Mark Rylance who steals the show as the grief-stricken Olivia, who unwittingly – and to side-splitting effect – falls in love with Cesario, who is in fact a young woman, Viola, in disguise. From the moment he glides onstage, black gown trailing neatly behind him as he moves, uttering his first line with perfect comic timing – “Take the fool away” – Rylance has the audience in the palm of his lace-gloved hand, and doesn’t relinquish them until the very end.
Filmed during a sold-out performance at The Globe itself, this cinematic version of Twelfth Night has all the feeling and intimacy of a night at the theatre without the hefty price tag. Tickets to see live performances in the West End and Broadway can set you back a pretty penny, but seeing Twelfth Night at your local Cineworld or Odeon is less than £10 (I do love a bargain). Also hitting cinema screens this summer as part of this initiative are Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew, both in the traditional style of Twelfth Night, and a modern adaptation of Othello, so there’s plenty of choice for Shakespeare buffs around the world seeking their theatrical fix. I can’t say much about the other plays available to watch, but when it comes to Twelfth Night, I can only thoroughly recommend it. In spite of the hilarity of the performance, Carroll’s direction does not undermine or downplay the sincerity of some parts of the plot – Viola and Sebastian’s reunion is touching and heartfelt, and Rylance’s portrayal of Olivia allows some brief glimpses into the private, intimate sorrow of grief. Truly a sensational performance, Carroll’s Twelfth Night draws out the comedy of Shakespeare’s original text with expert finesse, making the lines which were written over 400 years ago still feel relevant – and more importantly, hilarious – but also deals perfectly with the subtleties and complications of love, loss, comedy and tragedy, which all interconnect in this seminal work from the world’s best-loved playwright.