Tag Archives: Shakespearean Comedy

BB, The Comedy of Errors, Act I

23 Apr
The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Stephanie E.M. Coleman, The Bard Brawl

Welcome to Act I of  The Comedy of Errors brought to you by the Bard Brawl. And happy birthday, Will!

We think it’s your birthday, anyway. Although Google may disagree or else feels that you’re not important enough for a doodle this year. I mean, you were baptised on the 26th of April so April 23rd seems like good enough of a guess, right? It also happens to be the day you died on. Weird.

Well, we promised it, and at last we’ve delivered.

Nope, once again it’s not act V of Titus Andronicus, even though you promised you wouldn’t bring it up again.

It’s a brand new play with a brand new Bard Brawl format. Instead of reading out each act of the play in its entirety, we’ve picked out some of our favourite bits. Kind of like a sports highlight reel but unlike this shameful display, or this one, there are no losers and the commentators don’t speak in those awful sports jock radio voices.

In between these speeches, which will be read by a revolving cast of Brawlers, our Bardic talking heads will try to point out what we think is interesting, noteworthy or just plan awesome about each act.

So grab a listen, subscribe and tell us what you think as we go pound for pound with the birthday boy!

Download or listen to the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes.

Welcome reader Gage K. Diabo for the Comedy of Errors.


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Welcome to The Comedy of Errors

16 Apr
The feature logo for The Comedy of Errors is brought to you by Mezari designer Stephanie E.M. Coleman. We think it’s pretty rad.

Welcome Bard Brawlers. We are back and will release the first volume of our podcast next week. The play? The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s first comedy and in the running for least plausible plot of all time.

Before you join us in our new format podcast, which will be released next week, feel free to watch the BBC version of the play staring Who frontman Roger Daltrey. It’s pretty good. Here’s part one, with the others all on the site.

Actually, there’s not too much in terms of adaptations of this play especially in film. It is a decent play to see live however. I’ve seen it once at Bard on the Beach, as has A.D. Rowe, who caught the steam punk version, which he liked. It’s pretty funny.

Here’s Ms. Lane’s six-minute take on the plot.

That should give you a taste of the play, and we’ll be back in to rip out the first act with dramatic readings and all.

Talk to you then.

DJR.


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Music, whimsy, and the Merry Wives of Windsor

14 Aug

A.D. Rowe

Wives singing

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, 2016 Bard on the Beach; Photo: David Blue

What sets the productions of Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, BC apart from other Shakespeare performances is their style.

To be honest, the average person going to work unclogging a drain, filing papers, ceaselessly one-upping a coworker just to keep on top of the pedantic pyramid, doesn’t have time for Shakespeare.  (Hmmm, it’s actually quite ironic Shakespeare writes many of these seemingly mundane human behaviours into his plays so really, we should be constantly reading and watching Shakespeare so as to be aware of the ruts we are in.  But that’s a discussion for another time.)  What Bard on the Beach does so well is to appeal to the people while staying true to Shakespeare.  Sure, I see a few people nodding off during a long-winded soliloquy, however, I rarely find a person come away from a production regretting they had gone.

Bard of the Beach in their 2016 slate has again produced a magical musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor set in Windsor, Ontario in the late 1960s that holds both the comedic Shakespeare in tact with the bar style kitsch Canadiana of Windsor.

The lifeless eyes of the stuffed moose head looks down on the Garter in where the wives Mrs. Ford and Page take the stage to kick off with These Boots are Made for Walkin’ while young Slender and Dr. Caius pine for Miss Page and the fat Falstaff looks to swindle the lot.

Photo 2Much of the play’s success rides on Falstaff as Shakespeare’s popular buffoon (whom it is rumoured the Queen really liked) holds much of the energy between the various parties.  He pursues the wives while Mr. Ford in disguise plies him for information about his schemes and all the while, Mrs Ford and Page are playing Falstaff for the fool he is.  Ashely Wright plays the bombastic Falstaff and does an excellent job of capturing the sleazy businessman who thinks himself the true ladies man while being totally clueless at the same time.

While the entire cast from Bard on the Beach is exceptional, a few others stood out that night.  Andrew Chown was spectacular as Dr. Caius in ridiculous valour suits and a French accent while Ben Elliott channeled his Jim Carrey (you know. When he was funny) to play a gangly Slender who unenthusiastically pursues the mistress Page.  And the two wives of Windsor, Amber Lewis and Katey Wright (not this Katie Wright), were outstanding as they ran the stage both in verse and in song twisting Sir Falstaff every which was and into the laundry bin.

The joy of the show came from the musical that worked it’s way through script as characters would come from the wings to take up instruments and play and the bar keep and host of the Garter Inn, played by Anton Lipovetsky, did a great job with his guitar keeping it all together.  The cast used the music of the late 60s to enhance the story and give the actors a chance to express their character through song which worked well with keeping the audience engaged.  You could tell by scanning around the room and seeing the smiling faces that this production was a hit and one that is a must see this summer down in English Bay in Vancouver, BC.

Photo 1

David Marr, Ben Elliott & Andrew McNee THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, 2016 Bard on the Beach; Photo: David Blue


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To like or not to like… Kenneth Branagh

3 Jul

Daniel J. Rowe

When sitting down to watch any of Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptations of the bard, you cannot avoid the first question: do I like this guy?

It’s like with Woody Allen. It’s very hard to separate the person from the film, and, even if objectively it’s a good movie, you have to come to terms with the creator.

Branagh’s done a half-dozen adaptations thus far with Love’s Labour’s Lost being the last of them in 2000. Then he kind of stopped doing them. Don’t know why. Don’t think he needed to stop, as he has a passion for the bard, but he stopped nonetheless.

Let’s look at that last film version, and see what we think of one of the Bard Brawl’s least favourite plays. The brawlers read through this one, and I think it’s fair to say no one really liked it. Reading and watching, however, are two different things, and there are many instances where one is superior to the other.

This LLL (that’s what we’re calling it because it looks cool and is 50-50-50 if we’re doing Roman numerals) is a musical and Technicolor style of the 50s or 60s complete with dancing set against the backdrop of the early days of the Second World War. If you don’t like musicals, you will not like this version. If you don’t like musicals, you may be missing something in life by the way. Just saying. Sing people! Sing on.

Here’s a taste.

Huh.

Who would’ve thought the bard could be so sexy? (The answer to that, by the way, is: the brawlers did. We get it.)

Watching it, I can’t get the feeling like a certain director may have been, ur, inspired? by this film when he made a certain other film. (CLICK THE LINKS).

Back to LLL.

The play involves three men who have cast off all worldly pursuits to lock themselves in a library for a year or something and dedicate it to learning. Girls show up, and dang if their sexiness doesn’t throw them all off their game.

Spoiler alert: you already guessed the ending.

Branagh’s version actually works pretty well. It shows how a play can come off as very boring an uninteresting when read, but then comes to life when seen on stage or screen. It was clever of Branagh to go the route he did and in so doing, he introduced the play to a new audience. I think. I can’t remember anyone seeing it when it came out.

Branagh’s immediate predecessor to LLL was Hamlet that he left untouched and filmed every single line. He got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination that year, which is weird. LLL, however, he ripped up and put back together, and it works well. If I were teaching this play to torture my students or something, I’d show the film to reward the students for ploughing through the five acts.

Another fun thing about the movie is how much it proves stardom’s fleeting nature.

The film stars a whose who of who used to be hot headlined by none other than Alicia Silverstone. She’s a vegan now aparently. Oh, crushes of the mid-90s. Sigh. “As if” indeed.As IF

Also starring: the guy from Scream, the guy from like four movies whose names I forget, the girl from that movie with Robert De Niro that proved to me that I shouldn’t make a special effort to watch his movies anymore, and Emily Mortimer. I like her.

In the end, LLL works. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it’s got all the box check items that are needed to make a decent Shakespearean comedy work.

Branagh is best when he does comedy. His Much Ado About Nothing is also very good, and his bubbly lightness gives an energy that the cast picks up on, and runs with.

When’s the next adaptation Kenneth? Have you forgotten your first love?

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Repercussion Theatre’s Twelfth Night, Directed by Amanda Kelloc

20 Jul
Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Eric Jean

Sitting in Westmount park (with copies of Twelfth Night in-hand to follow along, of course), Brawlers Celeste Lee and Daniel J.Rowe wondered aloud if Repercussion Theatre’s new director Amanda Kelloc knew what she was doing when she chose to present Bard Brawl – Twelfth Night, Act I to V, a Christmas play (!), in the middle of Montreal heat wave.

Did she even know it was a Christmas play? Yeah, I’m sure she knows. She seems like a smart woman and she didn’t edit out Sir Toby Belch’s song in II.3. which starts, “[Sings] ‘O, the twelfth day of December.” She knows what she’s doing, and I think she’s pretty clever, too.

So how the hell does a Christmas play work for Midsummer weather?

Well, Twelfth Night is actually the name of a Christian holiday which corresponds to the 12 days following Christmas, ending on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany. And how do you celebrate Twelfth Night? You drink and eat a lot, make fun of your betters, and generally the social order gets turned upside down while everybody cuts loose. Like many Christian traditions that the Church would like to claim were wholly original, this one’s actually Roman.

Yep. The Romans had this thing called Saturnalia, which took place over several days in – you guessed it! – December! They even elected this King of the Saturnalia who could order people to make out with their boss, or to pirouette in Buckingham palace, or whatever.

It’s a good gig if you can get it.

(Little sidebar: Sir Toby’s song makes sense. Seems that there was a time when Twelfth Night started 13 days before Christmas and then ended on Christmas. Trust me.)

See how it makes sense now? It’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of misrule in Twelfth Night to turn Twelfth Night from a Christmas play into a Midsummer play.

And in that same spirit, we decided to stash our monogrammed copies of the Complete Works into our bags and just watch the show.

Now that this bit of business is done, what did I actually think of the play?

In contrast to last summer’s wild, over-the-top, gut-splitting history play mash-up Harry the King, Kelloc’s Twelfth Night is a much more traditional staging of Twelfth Night.

The whole play takes place on the same simple set representing Olivia’s garden where Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Maria spy on Malvolio as he reads the letter he thinks is from Olivia and which will lead him to prance around on-stage wearing ridiculous cross-gartered yellow stockings.

And thank God. I’ve seen to many plays with spinning box sets that seems less about the drama and more like a platform for some set designer to show off just how many locations they can cram into a two hour play. Especially given the outdoor venue, I really appreciated that the set itself depicted an outdoor locale

The only set alteration – which not only makes a lot of sense but also recalls the trap door ‘pit’ built into Elizabethan playhouses – is a kind of barred dungeon window behind which Malvolio stands while everyone thinks he’s gone nuts.

A nice touch.

Performances were generally good, though those of the miscreant Belch and company by far eclipsed those of the play’s courtly characters like Orsino and Viola. In defence of Orsino and co., however, Shakespeare didn’t always give them a whole lot to work with in Twelfth Night.

The stand-out performances to me were Sir Toby Belch (Matthew Kabwe) and Malvolio (Paul Rainville).

Kabwe’s physicality and boundless energy really brought the character of Twelfth Night’s de facto Lord of Misrule to life. (Almost as good as our own Jay Reid, but I digress.)

The synergy between Belch and Aguecheek (Adam Capriolo) was excellent, as was the decision to represent Andrew Aguecheek as a kind of effeminate hipster poseur. Letitia Brooke‘s initially reluctant Maria fit right in with the two other pranksters.

Rainville’s Malvolio was equally memorable for his stern, quasi-Puritanical high-mindedness as well as his cocksure yellow-stocking prancing. As much as you wanted to hate Malvolio for being a killjoy, you really felt bad for him by the end of the play.

Viola (Emelia Hellman) as well was well-acted and well cast, though I felt that she did not stand out as much as Malvolio and Belch.

The character of Feste (Gitanjali Jain)was portrayed as a jack-of-all-trades entertainer: singer, musician, and acrobat. Jain accompanied herself on the guitar as she sang Feste’s many songs. While she sang and played well, and the live, acoustic musical performance lent an air of spontaneity to Feste’s fooling, I felt at times that the songs were just a little too long. Rather than feed the ribald energy of the scene, they sometimes took away from it.

To me, Olivia (Rachel Mutombo) seemed the weakest of the cast members. Olivia is a melancholy character, still in mourning over the death of her brother. However, none of this melancholy came through in her performance which was rather one-note.

Orsino (Mike Payette) delivered an honest performances though it was not particularly noteworthy. Jesse Nerenberg and Darragh Kilkenny-Mondoux, as Sebastian and Antonio, respectively, both did well in their supporting roles.

On the whole, Repercussion’s 2015 edition of Shakespeare in the Park is an enjoyable if relatively conservative staging of Twelfth Night. While not without its flaws, it nevertheless makes for an entertaining evening in the park. I recommend grabbing a blanket, a few drinks, and catching Twelfth Night while you have the chance.

Twelfth Night runs until July 26th. Click here to see locations and show times.

 


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act V; REDUX

5 Jan

 

artwork - Leigh MacRae

artwork – Leigh MacRae

“… let no quarrel nor no brawl to come taint the condition of this present hour,” Fabian

Welcome back to the Bard Brawl and to the final act of our Twelfth Night redux!

The gauntlet of relatives, three heaping platefuls of cipâtes, your second copy of Moneyball in as many days (*pokes Niki Lambros), that the guy you made out with at the New Year’s Eve party who you later discovered was your second cousin (Dramatization, may not have happened.), you survived it all.

You made it! Pat yourself on the back, enjoy what’s left of the bubbly (we sure did) and have a listen as we wrap up Twelfth Night in true Bard Brawl style with a little NKOTB.

Side note: Enjoy the “crusher” guitar intro. We sure did.


Listen to or download the podcast.


Only one scene in this act but it’s a pretty wild one.

Orsino, that lazy, pathetic ass, has finally decided that if he wants Olivia he should probably make some sort of effort himself to win her over. He runs into Feste and Fabian outside of Olivia’s house. Insert a couple of jokes about friends and asses before Orsino sends Feste to fetch Olivia. While he waits, Viola (yup, still disguised as Cesario) notices Antonio being lead before the Duke by an officer. Orsino immediately recognises him as a pirate, but Viola tries to plead for mercy as Antonio defended her from Sir Toby and Andrew Aguecheek’s attacks.

Antonio attempts to defend his presence in Illyria by explaining that he was bewitched by Sebastian’s good looks and obvious character into making stupid decisions like exposing himself to the death penalty by being caught wandering the streets of Illyria. To make matters worse, he accuses Viola (thinking it’s Sebastian) of having refused to give back the money he had given him in trust. Of course, everybody thinks he’s a little nuts because Viola honestly has no clue what the hell he’s talking about. Both Orsino and Antonio claim to have been with “Viola” for the last 3 months.

Olivia arrives and once again refuses Orsino’s advances. To make matters worse, she hits on ‘Cesario’ who she thinks she just married an act ago. When Viola says she plans on following the person she loves, Orsino, Olivia accuses her ‘husband’ of being unfaithful. Viola denies it, of course, but just then – by total coincidence – the priest comes in and backs Olivia.

Moments later, Aguecheek comes in asking for a doctor for Sir Toby who was just injured by ‘Cesario.’ More confusion as Aguecheek blames Viola for Sebastian’s actions. As Belch and his buddies are lead out, Sebastian walks on stage. Finally we have both siblings on-stage at once! Olivia seems particularly happy at the prospect of two Cesario’s: “Most wonderful!” I’ll let you finish the porn joke in whatever way seems best to you.

Sebastian and Viola tease out the moment where they finally admit that they’re brother and sister and that, strangely, all of this is totally okay in the end. Olivia is just as happy with Sebastian, Sebastian is all too happy with Olivia’s money; Viola finally gets to have Orsino, who now seems perfectly happy to give up his hot widow for woman he has spent the entire play confusing for a boy. This will make for some interesting swinger parties.

There are a few other loose ends to warp up. They read Malvolio’s letter and realise that maybe he’s not nuts so they may as well let him out of the asylum. Malvolio accuses Olivia of having toyed with him but Olivia denies that she had anything to do with it. Malvolio swears vengeance. I imagine everybody just laughs.

We also learn that Sir Toby and Maria are getting married but I’m sure they won’t be invited to the swinger party.

And then there’s a little N.K.O.T.B.

The inspiration for Act V.

The inspiration for Act V.

 

If you have any suggestions for which speeches you would like us to revisit, now’s the time as next week is the Twelfth Night speeches podcast!

Sonnet 27 read by sonneteer Hannah Dorozio.


 

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act IV; REDUX

4 Jan

“This is the air, that is the glorious sun, this pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t…” IV,iii Sebastian.

Welcome Brawlers to act IV of Twelfth Night.

New Year’s Eve has passed but there are still a couple of days before Twelfth Night which means a few more days of eating, drinking and pranks. Hope you kept some space for cakes and ale!

And don’t mind the funny-looking raisins.

On a Two Gentlemen of Verona note, there’s a new production coming out soon. “2GoV” (that’s how the cool kids send text messages or Tweets about it) is not done often, which is odd seeing as another one of those “I will love you forever but then get distracted by the first beautiful girl I see” romances is done, like, all the time.

Go check out the trailer. Looks like a lot of fun!


Listen to or download the podcast.


Before everything untangles itself, Shakespeare’s going to up the ante and string us along for another act of mistaken identities and practical jokes.

Cesario (Viola in what has to be one hell of a disguise), is mistaken for Sebastian (Viola’s mystically identical twin brother) by Antonio at the end of act III. In act IV, scene 1, it’s Sebastian’s turn to be confused for Cesario. Feste mistakes him for Sebastian and only leaves after Sebastian gives him some cash. Then, Sir Toby, Fabian and Andrew Aguecheek come on stage, planning to attack the defenseless Cesario but they are beaten by Sebastian who, unlike Viola, is an able swordsman. Olivia shows up, breaks up the fight and invites Sebastian in thinking that she has finally managed to win over Cesario.

Confused yet? You shouldn’t be – I’m sure you’ve had all the practice tracking disguises when you listened to our The Taming of the Shrew Brawl.

Sebastian has never seen Olivia in his life but figures, what the hell? How often does a beautiful, rich widow throw herself at you and offer to give you everything she has? Seems like the natural thing to do. (I’m told it happens to Daniel all the time.)

If it helps, this is a composite image of the Olivia Shakespeare probably had in mind:

Olivia Wilde

While Sebastian follows Olivia Wilde out of her garden and into her sex den house, Maria, Sir Toby and Feste decide that they’re going to spend scene 2 messing with Malvolio. They dress Feste up as a priest who is visiting ‘Malvolio the Lunatic’ to exorcise his demons. They taunt him and toy with him until Sir Toby calls off the prank. He’s afraid that his niece Olivia will get mad at him if he pushes the joke too far. At the end of the act, Malvolio calls for some pen and paper – he means to write a letter proving that he’s not crazy.

The third scene is very short. It’s the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Olivia thinks she’s marrying Cesario, Sebastian has no clue who he’s marrying but she’s clearly hot and has a lot of money. (See picture of Shakespeare’s inspiration above if you don’t believe me.) They don’t even have each other’s identities sorted out.

Unless they learn to communicate, I can’t see how this is going to work for either of them.

Join us next week for the final act!


 

Though you’re far away, you’re near in our hearts Zoey Baldwin here reading sonnet 29.


 

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The Meggings Make the Man

3 Jan

The third instalment of ‘Zounds! is coming. The Mad King is destined to be amazing with some great submissions already in. If you would like to be a part of the epic journey along with the Bard Brawlers, click here and check out the submission guidelines. Better yet, buy a previous edition and get the idea of what ‘Zounds! is all about.

Here is an entry from ‘Zounds! Act I, scene ii: T by fashion writer, designer and artist Stephanie E.M. Coleman. Enjoy.

Stephanie E.M. Coleman

Let’s admit we all follow trends.

Hypercolour t-shirts? Yeah man. My armpits were blue and the rest of my shirt was pink, but it was cool. Lipstick pink Juicy Couture velour tracksuits? Hot, in a Paris Hilton kind of way (glittery trucker hat mandatory, of course). Rave pants and soother necklaces? Sweet dude, just don’t forget your angel wings.

These are all lovely memories and everything, but we all hope they remain the stuff of ironic Halloween costumes and nothing more.

Perhaps you shuddered a little like I did when leggings came back in style, around 2005. Gazing at the racks of flimsy legwear at the retail store where I was working at the time, all these memories of lace trimmed white leggings I wore in grade 2 came flooding back to me.

And I was expected to build a wall display with these things?

I mean right in front of me I had evidence that the trends I wore as a kid had now cycled back into the forefront of designers’ minds, which would mean that they were vintage. That was a blow my 23 year old mind had a hard time absorbing, though I’ve since gotten used to the phenomena. (Hedi Slimane’s 2013 ‘grunge’ collection for St. Laurent was the real kicker.) I’m now sort of numbed to any further appropriations.

Anyway.

Fashion trauma aside, it would seem that leggings are here to stay, clinging to the flesh and gripping onto every contour and sinew in all their spandex glory. Printed with skulls or crosses à la Alexander McQueen, classic black, or granny style floral, tights are the ubiquitous fashion non-statement that just won’t quit. Stubbornly resistant to the ebb and flow of fashion, we see them turn up time and again under skirts, shorts and tunics.

Black Milk Clothing leggings (see right) are a favourite of the Bard Brawl and may just appear in the third instalment of ‘Zounds! Yep. That’s the first act of Hamlet on her legs.

Model: Saphia; Photo Credit: Jacques Carrière; Leggings: Black Milk Clothing

Model: Saphia; Photo Credit: Jacques Carrière; Leggings: Black Milk Clothing

Even for men.

Yes, in case you hadn’t heard, ‘meggings’ first appeared on Givenchy’s runway in 2013 with black tights worn under shorts. The look has since become a streetwear trend in Europe and New York, with designers like Rick Owens following suit, er…Spandex. They are even somewhat acceptable worn as ‘pants’ for gals, despite the fact we can see right through them to the polka dots on the wearer’s underpants.

Whatever.

Though I understand the popularity of such a comfortable no brainer garment, I can’t say I agree with such practices – especially the above mentioned “pants impostor” faux pas that assaults the eyes far too often.

Hmmmm…I actually do think meggings are pretty cool though.

Google it.

Before we gasp at the daring of Givenchy’s meggings, we should really take a minute to remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Indeed, a few centuries ago was penned a play featuring a hilarious quandary about a certain pair of yellow tights, cross gartered.

When I first read Act II of Twelfth Night, where Maria writes to Malvolio in the guise of Olivia, urging him to don his ‘yellow stockings, cross-gartered’ and woo her, I couldn’t quite picture the look. It sounded delightful, though. A little research at bardbrawl.com, and I quickly discovered that cross gartered yellow tights were de rigeur in court at the time Twelfth Night was written. Yellow was the ‘It’ colour of the season, and the decorative cross garters were an innovation to hold up the stockings before the advent of our dear friends, Lycra and Spandex. Who knew?

Check it out.

Yellow Stockings, Cross-Gartered

Poor Malvolio. It’s kind of tragic.

He was so excited! I mean, he was taking a real fashion risk and expressing himself and then it blows up in his face. I can just imagine him strutting his stuff, thinking this outfit was really gonna seal the deal with Olivia, while she looks at him like he’s gone mental and all the while Maria and co. are snickering at him from behind the bushes.

You know, I really think Malvolio was hanging out with the wrong crowd. They just weren’t ready for his avant-garde fashion sense. Too insecure.

Hello! I thought this play was supposed to be set in Italy. How far is Illyria from Milan, anyway? I guess it’s a little too far from the fashion capital for anything to trickle down. Like showing up at the Calgary Stampede in meggings, it’s just not going to be well received with this crew.

The truth is we just don’t know how to handle stockinged men. There was a whole Mel Brooks movie mocking it – remember Robin Hood Men in Tights? I do. I may or may not be able to quote the whole thing, which is something I probably shouldn’t admit to. “We’re men, we’re men in tights, we roam around the woods looking for fights….”

Okay enough!!

I do think there is a greater lesson to be learned from Malvolio’s mishap. When you step out and make a bold fashion statement, you become an easy target. Crowds are uncomfortable with the audacious confidence required to try out, say, peplums. So should Malvolio be ashamed, hang his head and exit the stage to Charlie Brown music like that Arrested Development episode? Maybe not. I say wear what you love, what makes your imagination run wild, what inspires you, what tells a story. Hold your head high, and remember you have Bill Cunningham on your side!

In the end, I think Malvolio had the last laugh. What started as sabotage turned into a sartorial mainstay.

For real, let me know when everyone has stopped wearing leggings for good. I doubt that day will come anytime soon.


 

'Zounds!, Act I, ii

‘Zounds!, Act I, ii

 

 

Check out the rest of the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Buy Volume II NOW.

 

 

 


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BB: Twelfth Night, Act III – (Re)Redux

2 Jan
Artwork - Leigh MacRae

Artwork – Leigh MacRae

“… he is a devil in private brawl,” – Sir Toby Belch, III, iv.

Welcome back Brawlers and Happy New Year!

Let’s keep the party jumping with act III of Twelfth Night!

What’s in store for this act? Probably a lot of things that we would call bullying today. Although if we were to bully anyone, we could do worse than to pick on Malvolio. Seems to me like someone’s a little light on Elizabethan holiday spirit. What better way to send a message than through public humiliation? I can’t think of any.

Turns out we’ve already reprised this podcast back when we were working on our first issue of ‘Zounds! (Which remains me that you can get your copy of issues 1 and 2 here, and that you can send submission for the upcoming Mad King issue here.)

But I’m sure you’ll forgive us as not only is this a particularly rockin’ and raucous episode but it was also our farewell brawl for Brawlers-for-life power couple  “Second” Jay Ovenden and Zoey Baldwin.

So here’s to all the Brawlers out there, near and far.

And to those who cannot be with us, I’ll shotgun an extra bear just for you.


 

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Viola (still in disguise as Cesario, of course) is waiting outside of Olivia’s house at the start of act III. She is waiting to be admitted with yet another suit from Orsino and is engaged in a witty exchange by Feste, the clown. The two exchange a bunch of jokes about husbands being fools, words being whored out through misuse and overuse, with some punning about the young Cesario ‘wanting’ a beard thrown in for good measure: The beard she ‘wants’ is attached to Orsino’s face, get it?

While she waits, Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby arrive and invite Viola in. Before they can enter, however, Olivia meets with them and is left alone with ‘Cesario.’ Olivia is enraptured by ‘Cesario’ and tries to get him to drop his suit on behalf of wooing for himself. She confesses to the ploy with the ring intended to get Cesario back here but Viola doesn’t bite. Viola says ‘Cesario’ won’t return given that it will be impossible to convince Olivia to love Orsino but Olivia ask that Cesario return anyhow, ‘just in case’ he might be able to convince her somehow…

It seems the Aguecheek saw the whole exchange between Cesario and Olivia in the garden and has decided, at the start of scene 2, that he has no chance with Olivia and should probably just leave. Fabian and Sir Toby convince him that what he needs to do is demonstrate his valour by challenging Cesario to a duel. Sir Toby asks him to write a challenge letter which he will deliver to Cesario. Seems like this is another prank and Sir Aguecheek just another fool. Maria arrives and informs that Malvolio’s all dressed up and ready to make a fool of himself.

Antonio catches up to Sebastian on his way to Illyria in scene 3. Despite the danger to himself, Antonio is moved to help Sebastian. We find out that the reason Antonio is a wanted man is because he stole from Orsino and was recognised in fleeing. He hands Sebastian some money and agrees to meet him at an inn called ‘The Elephant.’

Scene 4 is a monster of a scene, with a lot going on.

As the scene starts, Olivia is waiting impatiently for Malvolio. He arrives dressed as the letter suggested, with his bright yellow stocking, cross-gartered. Olivia immediately assumes he’s lost his mind and ask him to go to bed… which of course he takes as an invitation. He starts quoting bits of the letter as he kisses Olivia’s hand. She, of course, has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.

When Cesario is announced, Olivia asks Maria and Sir Toby to take care of the maddened Malvolio. Malvolio, though, assumes that this is just a test and that he’s supposed to exercise his ‘new authority’ over Sir Toby. They toy with him a bit and when Malvolio walks off, they decide to ties him up and put him in a dark room. Sir Andrew then arrives with his challenge letter. As it is a letter which would betray that Aguecheek is a moron, Sir Toby decides to deliver the challenge to Cesario himself, in his own words.

Olivia and Cesario are in the garden replaying the same scene: Olivia trying to convince Cesario to love her, Cesario trying to convince Olivia to love Orsino. When they take their leave, Sir Toby approaches Cesario and issues Aguecheek’s challenge. Of course, Viola is ignorant of any offense she might have given Aguecheek so she asks Sir Toby to find out what exactly Aguecheek is accusing her of. She asks Fabian about Aguecheek cheek and he describes him as a dangerous and skillful warrior. Sir Toby gives basically the same description of Cesario. While both of the combatants hope the combat will be avoided, Sir Toby manipulates them into it and they are interrupted by Antonio as they draw their swords. He has clearly confused Viola for Sebastian. (The impossible identical twins, remember?)

Moments later, some officers arrive and arrest Antonio. Thinking that he’s speaking with Sebastian, Antonio asks for his money back to bail him out of this mess. Viola denies having the money but offers half of what she has to help him. Antonio is incensed that ‘Sebastian’ has denied him but he is taken away by the guards. Viola slips away with Andrew Aguecheek and the others giving chase.

Cue Benny Hill theme song.

Who will be Zoey and Jay’s successors? You’ll have to listen to act IV to find out.

Sonnet 42 read by Jack Konorska.

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BB: Twelfth Night, Act II – Redux

1 Jan
Artwork - Leigh MacRae

Artwork – Leigh MacRae

Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl!

Hope you’re nice and buzzed because today we continue with our special Twelfth Night redux of Twelfth Night with act II.

Finally got those yellow stockings you were pining for this Christmas? Tonight’s the night to bust a New Year’s Eve fashion move and rock those cross-gartered wonders in all their glory!

(Send pictures)

If you didn’t get your yellow stockings – like that Nintendo you kept asking for and not getting because you were told that there just wasn’t room in Santa’s sleigh – you can use the line that was used on me as a kid: Ah! There’s always next year!

Listen to or download the podcast.

In the first act of the play, Viola disguises herself as Cesario, the young eunuch page in service to Orsino. Olivia has continued to refuse his advances but though better of his envoy, Cesario. A bit of a problem for everyone involved in that scenario…

Oh, but what do we have here at the start of act II? Why, a young man, washed up on the shore, who bears a striking resemblance to Viola in her Cesario disguise? Hmm… wonder where Shakespeare’s going with that. Anyhow, this is Viola’s brother Sebastian who she thinks is dead but who is – as we can see – very much alive. He was found washed ashore by this Antonio fellow. Sebastian decides that he’ll seek out Orsino (presumably to figure out a way home) and, despite having enemies in Orsino’s court, Antonio is moved by his love for the young man and decides to follow him anyway.

Malvolio, whom Olivia had sent after Cesario, catches up her in scene 2 and gives her a ring. When Viola tries to turn down the ring because it is not hers, Malvolio insists that not only is it her ring but that she threw at Olivia. Malvolio drops the thing on the ground and leaves. This is where Viola realises that maybe her disguise was a little too good. Ooops.

We return to Olivia’s house for scene 3 where Toby Belch, Sir Andrew and Feste the clown are singing, drinking and generally making a racket. Maria comes to tell them to quiet down nut the noise brings Malvolio. He immediately tells Sir Toby that he is only welcome here if he can check his excesses at the door. Sir Toby’s response? Something along the lines of “who the @$&# do you think you are?” He reminds Malvolio that his self-righteous behaviour might make him feel important but he’s still just a twerp. Like my 11 year old niece, Malvolio stomps off to go tell Olivia. They decide that they’ll play a (kind of mean) prank on him to take him down a peg: Maria will forge a fake letter to make Malvolio think that Olivia is in love with him. This is basically going to lead him to make a fool of himself.

This next scene is a little complicated to explain but actually quite simple. Orsino is listening to music when Viola arrives. He notices that ‘Cesario’ seems to be showing the signs that he’s fallen in love. Orsino. Seeing as he can’t feed is own appetite for love, he figures he can at least get some enjoyment
from hearing about ‘Cesario’s’ love interest. Of course, seeing as he is the object of Viola’s love, a lot of his questions are answered with: “she’s kind of a lot like you are. Like exactly.” Orsino says some stuff about how much better men are at love than women but Viola then tells him a story about her ‘sister” unrequited love to show that women love deeper than men. Orsino sends her back to Olivia’s house for more wooing!

The last scene of act II takes place in Olivia’s garden. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria have brought a friend, Fabian, along to watch Malvolio make a fool of himself. They all hide in the bushes. Malvolio walks on the stage talking to himself about how great it would be to be a count. He starts thinking of precedents to ladies marrying underlings. He imagines kicking Sir Toby out, having the run of the house. Eventually, he finds the letter written by Maria. Of course, he decides to read it aloud and describe his thoughts about the cryptic love letter. He ‘brilliantly’ deduces that the letter is written by Olivia and was left there on purpose for him to find it. Emboldened by this letter, he determines to follow its instructions and confess his love to Olivia. Of course, the gawkers chase after him so they won’t miss seeing him be shot down by Olivia.

The letter Malvolio finds mentions that its mysterious author wants to see Malvolio in yellow stocking, “cross-gartered.”

Before the advent of elasticized socks, men wore their socks up to their knees held up by straps or garters. It seems that there were several ways of gartering your socks. The “regular” way would have had the garters running down the side of the leg, parallel to the leg. Cross-gartering instead runs the straps or bands in a criss-cross pattern up the calf and to the knee.

Here’s how that might have looked:

Yellow Stockings, Cross-Gartered

I have no idea just how bad of a fashion faux-pas this would have been in Shakespeare’s day but I’ll take a guess. If we translate that into contemporary terms, the letter might as well have said: “I would really love for you to wear these skin-tight black and fluorescent green bicycle shorts when we go out for brunch with my mother this weekend.”

While I mentioned that Feste is the clown in the play, the real clown – in many ways – is Malvolio. He’s the one everybody’s laughing at. And I’m guessing that Malvolio would have looked just as ridiculous to Shakespeare’s audience as he does to us wearing those bright yellow sock, cross-gartered.

If, like me, you like taking pleasure at the misfortunes of others, you won’t want to miss the next act!

Sonnet 50 read by  sonneteer Erin Marie Byrnes.

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