The all male production of Twelfth Night in Shakespeare’s Globe saw the return of Mark Rylance as Olivia. In 2002 Rylance’s award winning performance was hailed, and ten years later nothing has changed. He encapsulates the femininity of the Countess with great overtones of voice. Whimpering and wailing to the sexual innuendos, as if Shakespeare had weaved them into the very fabric of the play for Rylance himself.
Twelfth Night also marks the theatrical come back of Stephen Fry, who plays the mad Marvolio, one of the men of the Chamberlain.
Fry’s long awaited return to theatre has been due since 1995 when he performed in the first night of Simon Grey’s Cell Mates. The premiere was ill fated, as Fry was in the midst of a battle with depression. This seems ironic as he plays the ‘gulling’ Marvolio, a deluded, raving man struggling to make sense of the world.
It is true to say Fry handles the role with great conviction and humour. Marvolio is misled into thinking Countess Olivia calls for his love. He prances about the stage with a smile, wearing yellow stockings, and half-garters thinking this will please Olivia. In fact he has been tricked, and the Countess imprisons him for ‘raving again’. The chemistry between Fry and Rylance is obvious, perhaps, the best double act around at the moment.
Now Fry lives his life more publicly than ever via a Twitter feed that offers the world note sized developments on his life. Gray would have never anticipated his readiness for the limelight once again. Fry tweeted to his 4,827,904 followers on the Globe’s premiere of the Twelfth Night:
“Thank you for all your kind good wishes: here comes Twelfth Night’s first night – as it were. *slaps self in face and does warm up* xxx.”
Fry treats comedy and tragedy with equal abandon throughout his performance. The electric applause at the end was notably loud, especially when Fry took his bow. Firstly, he has been missed greatly, and secondly, his melancholy of life has been channeled into the comedy of performance.
The final song brings an end to the play, a fitting end to this tragicomedy, as the squire sings directly to the audience: “We strive to please you every day.” I think the production team can rest assure the Twelfth Night has achieved this very maxim. A Truly unmissable performance.