Synopsis of Shakespeare 4 Kidz Twelfth Night

Once upon a Twelfth Night*, a boat bound for Messaline was caught up in a dramatic storm and shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria. (THE STORM) Two identical twins - Sebastian and Viola - survive the disaster and are washed up on the Illyrian seashore - neither knowing the other is still alive. (IT'S YOU) Viola’s sense of survival leads her to seek employment at the court of Count Orsino - the ruler of Illyria - however in order to do so she knows she needs to disguise herself as a man: thus Viola becomes Cesario.

Orsino is besotted with the Countess Olivia, but alas his love is not returned; and the “handsome” Cesario is soon charged by the Duke to woo the fair Countess on his behalf. But Olivia has vowed to avoid the company of men for seven years, while she mourns the recent deaths of her father and brother. 

Meanwhile her uncle - Sir Toby Belch - is also making plans for Olivia. He has invited Sir Andrew Aguecheek to stay at the house as a potential suitor - the fact that he is unbeknowingly financing Toby’s quaffing and carousing has of course nothing to do with it! (I CAN CUT A CAPER) Although Feste - Olivia’s fool - and his funster apprentices** work hard to lighten Olivia’s mood (FESTE'S FOUR FABULOUS FUNSTERS), she is intrigued by the visit from Cesario. Sebastian - remember him? Viola’s identical twin - is befriended by Antonio, and he too heads for Orsino’s court. Feste and the two knights enjoy a seasonal midnight sing-song downstairs in Olivia’s kitchen (O MISTRESS MINE; HOLD THEY PEACE) and Maria, Olivia’s gentlewoman, tries in vain to quieten them down. Disturbed by the commotion, Malvolio - Olivia’s puritanical steward - interrupts the merriment, threatens Sir Toby and promises to report Maria to the lady Olivia. An enraged Maria plans revenge (I HAVE A PLAN). 

Before long Olivia falls in love - not with Orsino, but with Cesario (who is Viola) - and who has also fallen in love … with Orsino! Maria forges a letter from Olivia, supposedly to Malvolio and drops it on the garden path. The plan works as Malvolio unravels the riddle (GIVE ME AN "M") and dreams of becoming Count Malvolio. 

Cesario’s mission to woo Olivia for “his” boss Orsino begins to get more difficult, as Olivia declares her undying love to Cesario. Sir Andrew, convinced he has no chance now in marrying the countess, decides to go home, but is instead persuaded by Sir Toby to challenge his opponent for Olivia’s heart to a duel. 

Sebastian reaches the city and realises he is being followed. It’s Antonio! Heavily disguised. Antonio is an old adversary of Orsino and is keen not to be arrested by the Officers of the Law who “never forget a face” (WE'RE THE MEN WHO DON'T FORGET). He lends Sebastian his purse. 

Back in Olivia’s garden, Maria’s plot unfolds. Malvolio appears dressed in yellow (a colour Olivia detests), wearing cross-gartered stockings (a fashion she hates) and smiling! (DRESSED IN A SMILE) Thinking her steward has gone mad, Olivia asks Sir Toby to take “special care” of him; he does by locking Malvolio in a dark room and sending for the priest (SIR TOPAZ AND CURIOUS CURATES). With Fabian he supervises the duel between Cesario and Sir Andrew. Antonio appears and, thinking he is protecting Sebastian, sees off Sir Andrew, but is promptly arrested by the Officers of the Law. Sebastian arrives at Olivia’s house and to Toby and Sir Andrew’s cost is confused for Cesario. Olivia intervenes, and takes a smitten Sebastian off to the church to be married. Confusion reigns in Olivia’s garden as Viola is blamed by everyone for all the trouble she’s caused (IT'S YOU TO BLAME!). Only when Sebastian returns does the penny drop; just leaving a seething Malvolio seeking revenge. Feste sings a final song about life. (THE WIND AND THE RAIN)

 

* Trevor Nunn used these five words as the opening to his 1996 film of Twelfth Night. Although some will argue there are references to part of the action occurring on Twelfth Night (Act 2, Scene 2), most believe that the play was written as a seasonal entertainment for that time of year when servants became masters, and a topsy-turvy frivolity prevailed.


** In our version we created the extra parts of Feste’s apprentices - his fabulous funsters - to give more parts to schoolchildren who performed the play. In the original play, Feste works alone.

 
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