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Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare most well-known and loved comedies. The characters and plot highlight many of his established conventions, as well as providing quite humorous situations. Shakespeare’s comic conventions regularly focus on shipwreck, mistaken identity and females dressing up as males; and all of these elements are in ‘Twelfth Night’. So, when attempting to edit this text, and indeed planning for staging this production, these conventions must be taken into account.  And as this is a musical, additional scripting must occur to appropriately place the created songs in Shakespeare’s work.

Initially, the shipwreck creates a division of the twins, physically isolating them away from each other until the end of the play. This isolation is also connoted through the set, separating the two house holds of Illyria through a mirrored stage design. The depressed characters literally remain on stage, sulking about how difficult their lives are. The isolation is further highlighted by the sad, ‘defeated’ songs connoting a yearning for a better time in their lives; when happiness and joy were part of everyday. This isolation is also emphasised in the costumes that each character wears.

The characters are dressed in military issued uniforms. The use of uniforms not only distinguishing them from one other, but also (and more importantly) highlighting their rank as well. Identifying rank places Shakespeare’s characters in positions of servants and masters. This highlights, as well as provides purpose for Viola to dress up as a man. Not only is she concealing her identity in the Army, she is also placing herself in a position of messenger. By creating an established ‘uniform’ base for the twins, further important conventions can be explored.

Due to the twin’s similar costumes, mistaken identify begins and this is where a majority of the comedy also occurs. As a result, light musical numbers add to the understanding and exposition of the story. The songs have been created to not only add to the mood and atmosphere of the scene, but allow a means to explain some of Shakespeare’s language in a modern voice.

Understanding Shakespeare is one of the most important missions in creating this production. As a result, the set, costumes and music need to assist the audience in translating his work. While editing has been used significantly in this process, Shakespeare’s language and comic conventions remain a constant means to successfully communicate to any audience.