l-r Jesse LaVercombe, Shannon Currie (by: Maxime Coté)
To Take a Different Tack
by Caitlin Murphy
I think I’ve reached a theatre-going quota. A sort of saturation point. I feel sated, full. Perhaps so much so, Mr. Creosote, that it is indeed a good time for that bucket. The source of this indigestion: high-concept, low-return subversions of Shakespeare. The National Theatre School’s graduating class’s production of Twelfth Night, under the direction of Jason Byrne, falls sadly into this category.
These felt awkwardly unhinged from story or character, creating a hodge-podge effect.
We learn in NTS’s promotional material, that director Byrne sought “to take a different tack” with the play and considers Twelfth Night “a complex psychological piece – quite tortured and melancholic and not at all a light comedy.” This goes a fair distance to accounting for the play’s stubbornly sluggish pace, and willfully flat tone, but I’m not sure it justifies it.
In the final moments of Twelfth Night, the thesis of Byrne’s interpretation seemed to be that we can no longer play comedy – any attempts will have to be feigned, disingenuous or ironic. The trouble with this interpretation is that we see it so much already – bored, stylish hipsters are the status quo – so in some ways it feels like a non-interpretation.