Friday, August 14, 2009

A New Favorite Feste

My favorite Twelfth Night and my favorite Shakespeare movie in general has for years been Trevor Nunn's 1996 Twelfth Night movie. I'd seen at least a couple of other Twelfth Night productions, not counting the charming half-hour Shakespeare: The Animated Tales version, but that movie was the best. Maybe it still is, but I have a new favorite Feste.

Unless I prove fickle and go back to Ben Kingsley, my new favorite Feste is Trevor Peacock.

I recently finally got around to watching the BBC Complete Shakespeare Plays' 1980 version of Twelfth Night. These productions weren't all good, but I'm more easily pleased than a lot of people when it comes to filmed plays, and I like a lot of them. Their Twelfth Night turns out to be one of the ones I like. I like the Elizabethan costumes and interiors. Felicity Kendal is, as always, cute as a button as Viola. Duke Orsino is much more palatable than he usually is. Sir Toby Belch (Robert Hardy) is good, Sir Andrew Aguecheek is good, and so is Maria (Annette Crosbie, perhaps best known as Victor Meldrew's long-suffering wife, in One Foot in the Grave) . The attractive Robert Lindsay, whom I've mentioned before, is also in this as Fabian and he's good too.

But as you might guess from the title, my favorite here is Trevor Peacock as Feste. Remembering him only from his somewhat less than coherent or pleasant comic character in The Vicar of Dibley, I was surprised the first time he turned up in one of the Complete Shakespeare Plays history plays. He seemed an odd choice. Physically, if for no other reason. But he's actually a good actor and his short, stubby appearance is no impediment to playing a jester. I really like him as Feste. His interplay with Olivia (Sinead Cusack) works very well; I totally buy their relationship--I see why she welcomes him back into her home and why, other than the obvious patronage, he comes back.

But what I especially love are his songs. You can hear them in clips from the YouTube user ShakespeareAndMore. I love best the "sweet and twenty" song from the rowdy three's overnight carousing scene; it is so poignant, it pulls at my heartstrings, corroded with cynicism though they may be. But he's no slouch in the "wind and rain" song, either, which was the part I liked best in Ben Kingsley's performance.

I really, really wish the owners of the rights to these old TV Complete Plays programs would get with the program and make them available individually to viewers at a reasonable price. I would love to own this DVD, but I can only rent it from Netflix. Word to whoever out there is in charge of this: There is an audience, guys. Make your product available to us, somewhere we can actually find it, and at a price that doesn't make us gasp, and we will buy it and you will make a little money from each one we buy. Overprice it and make it hard to find at any price and you might make more per each DVD you manage to sell, but you won't make as much overall.

Only tangentially related to any of this, is an experience that YouTube user gave me. Months ago I found an old (1960) version of The Tempest from American television and starring Maurice Evans (Bewitched) that he'd shared. Remember I've mentioned how I've often been known to "channel" Homer Simpson and at least once channelled Foamy the Squirrel? Well, upon seeing the male playing Ferdinand walk toward the camera in his pantsless costume, I--for the first time ever (and after disagreeing many times with my husband and his bachelor friends about the supposedly always baleful presence of male "parts" in movies)--channelled the bots from MST3K and yelped out an "aaaargh", followed by a "Men should not have 'areas'!" Sorry to any guys who enjoy dancing around the French Quarter in similar costumes on Mardi Gras, but it was a spontaneous reaction.

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