Thoughts on Tomahawk Theatre’s “Twelfth Night”

A few scattered notes on Tomahawk Theatre’s Twelfth Night, which ran in the courtyard of Oxford Castle for two weeks in July 2021. On the whole it was a competent but unremarkable production, softened and made romantic by the glow of sunset on old stone.

  • Costume choices were generally steampunk/Victorian-lite, which, while aesthetically rather fun, is probably the least interesting choice available: it removes what can be a fanciful play even further from relevance and into the realm of escapist fantasy. Also: I think every version of Twelfth Night I have seen has struggled to handle Malvolio’s “yellow stockings cross-gartered”, a period-specific fashion that rarely meshes well with modern costume styles. How do you update that to something a modern audience understands?

  • The music direction was…not great. This was firstly a question of singing ability – the actor playing Feste was somewhat lacking in this area – and secondly a question of pacing: the songs were too long and I don’t feel like the director had a clear vision of what they were there for.

  • On a personal level I wish the production had made more of the queer possibilities of the text. While Tomahawk’s Orsino definitely had gay vibes they were played very much as accidental and eventually legitimised by the revelation that “Cesario” is a woman. I mean: that is what the text does: confuses gender categories and then resolves them again to restore the social order; but I wish the production had questioned the neatness of that ending a little more.

  • Generally I feel like the production didn’t have much to say about the original text: all the choices it made were fairly obvious ones. The actors’ performances were on the whole good, but there wasn’t much to get hold of thematically. Don’t get me wrong: it was a pleasant evening; just not a memorable one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.