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Reviewed by:
  • Twelfth Night
  • Susan Fischer
Twelfth Night Presented by Compañía Denis Rafter at Teatro Infanta Isabel, Madrid, Spain. December 20-23, 2004. Spanish Translation and Adaptation by Ángel GarcíaSuárez and Denis Rafter. Directed by Denis Rafter. Set by Pedro Muñoz and Denis Rafter. Costumes by Gabriela Salaverri. Lighting by Juanjo Llorens. With Balbino Lacosta (Orsino), Patricia Ortega Cano (Valentina, Fabiana), Manuela Paso (Olivia), Pilar Gómez Lozano (Maria), Jesús Fuente (Sir Toby Belch), Ángel García Suárez (Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Antonio, Priest), Rafael Ramos (Malvolio), César Diéguez (Feste), Gladys Balaguer Mendoza (Viola), Israel Ruiz (Sebastian).

This faithfully rendered, uncut Spanish version of Twelfth Night, which played in a variety of venues throughout Spain, showed the creative stamp of its director, Denis Rafter, an Irish actor who emigrated from the Abbey Theatre to Madrid in the late sixties. Homonymous "trunks" dominated the simple set: a large traveling case with a hinged lid; and the main stem of a tree positioned horizontally behind an ever-present "sea," simulated by a deep blue cloth spanning the downstage area. Seven vertical poles draped with chiffon curtains loomed in the background; the imagination of the audience would determine whether they were sails rigged to the topmasts of a ship, trees, mountains, churches, or perhaps giants. If an element of surprise dominated this mise en scène, the director did not court originality for its own sake. The boards made no pretense of being anything but a space for acting, singing, and dancing, and there was virtually no naturalistic business, but rather a fusion of styles drawing on primitive African dance, Celtic and modern music, a Greek chorus of animals, vaudeville, puppetry, theatre of the absurd, musical comedy, and conventional Shakespearean staging.

Rafter set the play on an exotic and primitive island off the coast of Africa, which had both a forest and a beach. An African motif permeated the costumes, masks, set design, and color scheme. Orsino's and Olivia's residences could be found someplace within that expanse; it did not matter where, since they were evoked in the mind's eye of actor and audience alike. Stage business was inspired, and justified by both Illyria's status as an island and the illusion of shipwreck. There was a virtual moveable feast of props: a traveler's trunk, a sea captain's hat, and an illuminated music box all could have been washed up onto the beach from sunken ships perhaps as far away as Venice, or somewhere in the Mediterranean between Tunis and Naples. A potpourri of indigenous creatures, stuffed and alive, also made one-time appearances: a monkey, a parrot, a crocodile, and a snake marched past about now and again with their strings attached, while a peacock and a dog materialized as artless walk-ons in two performances. [End Page 60]

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Figure 1.

Rafael Ramos (Malvolio), Patricia Ortega Cano (Fabian[a]), Jesús Fuente (Sir Toby Belch), and Pilar Gómez Lozano (Maria) in Compañía Denis Rafter's production of Twelfth Night. Photo courtesy of Compañía Denis Rafter.

Rafter followed the nineteenth-century practice of transposing the first two scenes. To set the action in motion, Feste opened the magical music box situated downstage right, and exhaled inside (when, by design, the box would not light up after the interval, the Clown had everyone puff along with him in a tour de force of audience participation). Sebastian, in his light blue suit, was the mirror image of Viola's subsequent creation of Cesario; brother bowed to sister in a choreographed pre-storm dance so as to establish their identity as twins. The full cast, swaying and blowing to a score by the Greek composer Vangelis as if being "tempest tossed," created a presentational storm that hit the chiffon hanging from poles or, as it were, the sails rigged to the ship's masts. The gale escalated to fantastical proportions when the deep blue cloth spanning the length of the stage undulated to the actors' movements; the overall effect, abetted by flashing pink lights, was that of rippling waves in a swelling sea. The...


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