We have a chat with Emma Leigh, artistic director of MadCap Theatre about their upcoming show, Twelfth Night
It’s great to have you back at the Old Fire Station! The Taming of the Shrew last year was fast-paced, energetic and a lot of fun, can we expect the same from Twelfth Night?
It’s even better to be back! We loved Oxford last year and wanted to make sure we visited again this year with Twelfth Night.
You can most definitely expect a similar sort of show that’s full of energy. We try not to take ourselves too seriously and have fun while we’re performing, so if an audience leave with smiles on their faces, we’ve done our job. (read last year’s show interview here)
What drew you and MadCap Theatre Company to Twelfth Night?
The easiest way to explain is to give a little bit of background information about the play.
It was written in 1602 (or that, at least, was the first documented performance) to celebrate the ‘Twelfth Night’ or the end of Christmas and it really does reflect the joviality of the season.
MadCaps have always performed Shakespeare’s with ‘verve’ and the larger-than-life characters in Twelfth Night lend themselves to our performance style. The play is exceedingly pantomimic (it was written for Christmas after all) and seen as we are of the opinion that Shakespearean comedies need to be performed with enthusiasm and humour- it seemed like a perfect option.
It’s also a fantastic ensemble play, which imitates the way we work as a company. While it can be argued that Viola is the lead, everyone in the cast is essential to the story line, which means we have some great secondary story-lines and brilliant multi-character interactions.
Twelfth Night has a tricky plot. How does the way MadCap approaches Shakespeare’s play make it easy for people (and potential Shakespeare first timers) to understand?
If Shakespeare is played well, an audience should be able to understand the storyline and language. The way we approach Shakespeare, with big characters and an even bigger sense of humour, results in the meaning behind the action becoming unmissable.
Gesticulating, or not being afraid to physicalise what we are saying, plays a huge part in helping to understand the language. Also you will notice a fair few modernism’s within our classical setting; eye-rolls, high-fives even a quick game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ which, again, helps any audience understand what’s going on.
We also form a cast around a company of hugely multi-talented actors with all sorts of different performing backgrounds from dance and stand-up comedy to music and physical theatre; this means our shows are filled with really interesting elements which bring the story and language to life.
What is it about Shakespeare’s comedies that means you keep returning to them?
Shakespearean comedies are the perfect examples of standing the test of time, and they really are still hilariously funny. The storylines make for brilliant entertainment and audiences still respond well to them, and the way in which we stage them. From an actor’s point of view the fantastic characterisation in the script allows them to really play with language and have fun with the show.
MadCaps, while occasionally taking on more dramatic work, is primarily a company that produces classically- based comedies. There is nothing better for a cast, and ultimately a show, than being in rehearsals with 10 ridiculously creative people and making each other laugh!
Are there any highlights in the performance you can’t wait to show the audience?
My favourite ‘funny’ moment has to be what is usually referred to as the ‘Box Tree Scene’, where the trap is laid for Malvolio, and you have three other characters eavesdropping. It’s absolutely absurd and hilariously funny; and directing it involved sitting around a table discussing the most ludicrous ideas (ever try doing that with two stand-up comics and two actors and you’re in for a random and hysterical conversation). The most touching scene might have to be when the twins are re-united but I also adore the scenes between Viola/Olivia/Sebastian, not forgetting the Aguecheek/Viola sword fight and the scene between Malvolio and Feste towards the end…
This is really hard! There are so many truly lovely moments throughout!
And finally, favourite character and why?
Nope! Not answering that one, I’m meant to be impartial! Genuinely, every single character is just that- a character. So much so, it is hard to pick a favourite because firstly, they are so different and (I might be biased here) every role is beautifully portrayed.
Twelfth Night is on at the Old Fire Station 11th – 12th July, 7.30pm