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July 25, 2004

Shakespeare on the lawn

Last night the Monk spent his evening enjoying an al fresco performance of Shakespeare's Twelth Night. Illyrium came to the front lawn of Abbey House courtesy of the Ruff Theatre Company and it was superb. I think the Lord Abbot was extremely brave to turn over his home and his lawn to a group of players, not least because they made use of all the doors and several of the windows in their performance!

Twelth Night is, I suppose, best described as one of his "romps". The plot has more twists and turns than a snake negotiating a maze, but it contains some truly comic moments - and its bits of pure pathos. Poor, deluded Malvolio, first allowed to give himself airs above his station and then encouraged, by his fellow servants by means of a rather cruel forgery, to believe that his mistress is head over heels in love with him. Yellow stockings and cross garters! Hysterical!

Add to this mix, Sir Toby, a truly rogueish rogue, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, with courage not the only thing he lacks, and of course the twin brother and sister who make the whole tangle possible.

Played robustly by all the performers, it was huge fun. The addition of a cross-dressing Captain as Sebastian's companion, Sir Andrew being decidedly "gay", and all of Shakespeare's original ribaldry played up, played out, and the costuming, acting, and, as importantly, the setting (picture a large Georgian/Medieval house front flanked by the Gate Tower and the Abbey Church) made this a memorable event. Even the clock tolling the hours was drawn in imaginatively to the play - at one point the striking of the hour provided a wonderful adlib concerning the passage of time for player and audience.

Deserving of special mention is the Health and Safety introduction - in the open air you ask? - But, yes, the Rules require it. So it was given by the actor who played the Fool. It was accurate, it was hilarious, and it got the message over very effectively. He and one of the ladies also managed to drive home the message about mobile phones - by opening the Introduction with the quote "If music be the food of love play ...." at this point the lady's mobile phone rang with the sound of the "Lone Ranger Theme", and she duly took a call from Mama about not being out late and being careful around those acting types. We all dived for our phones to make sure they were OFF after that!

The proceeds from the fun are going towards paying for the restoration of the West Window - one the Players felt appropriate.

Watch this space; there will no doubt be more of this sort of event.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 25, 2004 08:50 PM


A 'sort of event' I'd dearly love to see. "Twelfth Night" is one of my favorites (sorry, but I love his 'romps' and don't much care for the tragedies).

If they don't do "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the next month, I'll consider it proof that you Englishmen don't really have summers.

Posted by: Kathy K at July 26, 2004 01:58 AM

We don't! Summer lasted about five days this year. And the Lord Abbot is considering doing this again next year - possibly with Midsummer Night's Dream.

Posted by: The Gray Monk at July 26, 2004 10:47 AM