Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) I, Malvolio (PuSh)

(Photo credit: Bruce Dalzell Atherton)
Shakespeare Supporting Character Speaks
Funny and Tragic
by David C. Jones
Tim Crouch has created a series of five plays based on lesser characters in Shakespeare’s plays – Peaseblossom from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Calaban from The Tempest, Cinna The Poet from Julius Caesar, Banquo from Macbeth and his most popular exposé is from Twelfth Night – I, Malvolio

The clown persona Mr. Crouch has created - scowling face and puffed cheeks - is hilarious.

The put upon self-righteous man is indeed a tragicomic character. In Twelfth Night the pompous steward is tricked into thinking the object of his affection, Olivia, is in love with him. Duped by a note written by Sir Toby Belch with Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Maria, he dons yellow stockings, behaves out of character and ends up in prison. At the end of the real play his storyline - in a play packed with improbable sub-plots - doesn’t even reach a satisfactory conclusion. He storms out vowing, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you.”

I, Malvolio starts when the indignant sad sack is dressed like a fool. He glares and sputters in an accusatory and naïve way at the audience. Repeating, “I am not mad” he dares the audience to laugh at him, invites us to, then admonishes us when we comply. He exposes his bum through his torn clothes and when we titter, he turns and says – “is that what you find funny?”

Asking an audience member to come up and kick him he advises them to use force that is from “that sweet spot between comedy and pain” and that is where the play resides. Malvolio is an ass - fussy, opinionated and judgmental - but he is also detached from real emotions and experiences; the humiliations he is made to suffer are also lamentable. 
The clown persona Mr. Crouch has created - scowling face and puffed cheeks - is hilarious. When we applaud another audience member for helping him put on some shoes, he rails at us “Oh, that is theatre for you. He put on my shoes, good enough, good show, let's go home!”

We laugh as he accuses the other characters in the play of not making sense, of Twelfth Night being a plot-driven play filled with “idiots, morons and lunatics.” When he defiantly strips down to a leopard print thong we jeer at him – and we have become Sir Toby Belch. We are getting enjoyment from cruelty and abuse, we judge ourselves superior to this fragile idiot. 
In the end Malvolio has dressed himself in clothes he would have been wearing at the beginning of the real play. His recriminations finished,  he storms off and we are giggling and know a little more about this man and even feel a little bad for him.

I, Malvolio is an interesting, curiosity of a play performed by a very clever and charming  actor and writer.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant, fun, irreverent. An exceptional night at the theatre. If at all possible, see this.


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