Spoleto 2019 » Theater

The timeless brilliance of Shakespeare delights once again

Our Bawdy Bard

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Anybody else remember step aerobics classes? Long before tame options like spin classes and pilates, step aerobics was the Wild West of fitness. Instructors made up whatever crazy routines they wanted, yelling out hard to hear and harder to follow choreography, made even more challenging thanks to incapacitating thigh burn.

Though the prim Dock Street is a far cry from a sweaty fitness studio (especially with the AC blasting, as it was last night), I had that same “I can’t keep up” feeling watching the uproariously talented actors of Shakespeare’s Globe do their thing for Spoleto Festival’s first night of Twelfth Night (the show repeats three more times, possibly more should ticket buyers so decree on an Audience Choice night).
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The story line is a classic, tangled love triangle, with trysts and twists aplenty. The stage set is simple and unchanging, a two-story wooden façade backdrop with lots of handy doors, but the Globe’s troupe of eight Shakespearean masters do plenty of changing up, busting in and out of those doors in varying roles, like a fast-paced game of Who’s On First.

All but Orsino and Viola play more than one role in the two-act play. The casting is genius — and feels quite contemporary, with gender having no bearing on who plays whom. And the acting is what you’d expect from a company that upholds the Bard’s mantle — superb.

Yes, I was mostly baffled throughout the first act, trying to catch names of characters and grasp nuggets of backstory from the poetic but convoluted Old English dialogue delivered in charming but sometimes hard to decipher British and Irish accents. But that’s just Shakespeare, par for the course. (A nod to my smart husband who connected a few loose dots for me during intermission. Suggestion: read a synopsis a few times before you go). And in the end, none of that seems to matter.



The humor comes through in bawdy, biting brilliance, and actors like Colin Campbell (the drunkard Sir Toby Belch) and his fool sidekick Sir Andrew (played by the glowing Beau Holland), in particular, dynamos of physical comedy. “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun; it shines everywhere,” as Feste, the wise jester says, played (and sung) beguilingly by Natasha Magigi. And shine it does. If anything trumps foolery in this show, it’s the music and song sprinkled throughout, a charming and effective device.

Shakespeare knew how to appeal to the masses and how to reveal the human heart. Seeing his work in Charleston, South Carolina, at our heralded international arts festival, in our crazy current political moment, in one of our nation’s oldest theaters, some 400 years after the play was written and first produced, is something to celebrate.

This is the magic of enduring art — the ability to make you laugh, sing, cheer, cringe, wince, appreciate the power of fashion (beware yellow socks) and the beauty of washboard music in skilled hands. Here we are all shipwrecked souls reunited; here we are lovers longing and conniving. Here we get our comeuppance, our aerobics workout, and our belly laughs. As it should be, or as the play’s alternative title suggests, “What You Will.”

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