Malvolio's Revolve

The joy of Shakespeare is that even if you see the same play dozens of times, each production is its own, unique experience.

Having said that… there are certain bits of stage business that often crop up in numerous productions. One of my favorites is Malvolio’s revolve.

Just for fun, here are various examples of Malvolio’s revolve that have been captured on film:


Alec Guinness in the 1970 ITV Saturday Night Theatre production does the classic dubious, self-conscious revolve, although Sir Toby and his gang are safely behind a hedge and don’t have to hide.


Nicholas Pennell in this 1986 filmed production at the Stratford Festival of Canada executes a confident and rarely-seen double revolve, forcing his peanut gallery to duck out of sight.


In this filmed version of the Renaissance Theatre Company’s 1988 production, Richard Briers executes a very slow , dubious revolve that is notable for being counter-clockwise. In my experience, most Malvolios revolve in a clockwise direction.


Finally, this Stratford Festival production milks the revolve for all it’s worth, with Tom Rooney’s Malvolio turning at just the right speed to miss Sir Andrew’s desperate dash across the stage.

Some productions choose to have Malvolio turn the letter around, rather than himself. Others either blow past the line without acknowledging its comedic gag potential, or cut it in its entirety. All are valid choices, but honestly… why look a gift gag in the mouth?

Twelfth Night, Play On, and Shakespeare in Detroit

On Friday night I drove 40 minutes east to Detroit and settled in for Shakespeare in Detroit's last production of 2018, and their final production until they move into their very exciting new permanent space in 2020.

As you might know, I've become a huge fan of Shakespeare in Detroit, now in its fifth season. Artistic Director Sam White is one of my personal Shakespeare heroes. You can read all about her and the amazing way she has developed Shakespeare in Detroit from nothing into an exciting fixture of the Detroit theatrical scene in this excellent Forbes article: Is Shakespeare the Key to Detroit's Recovery?

So, it goes without saying that I was very happy to be able to join them for their production of Twelfth Night... well, specifically a production of the Play On Shakespeare translation of Twelfth Night by Alison Carey. I've spent quite a lot of time with the Play On folks now, and saw a one-hour reading of the Play On translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream earlier this year (again at Shakespeare in Detroit), but this was my first time seeing a full production of a Play On text. 

In my seat for Shakespeare in Detroit’s  Twelfth Night  at the Detroit Opera House.

In my seat for Shakespeare in Detroit’s Twelfth Night at the Detroit Opera House.

It was an interesting experience. The Midsummer translation was, I would estimate, at least 80-90% Shakespeare's original text, with only a few lines, words, and jokes tweaked for modern sensibilities. The Twelfth Night, though, was much more extensively rewritten. As Twelfth Night is one of the plays I know very well, this was, on some level, extremely disorienting, and I missed many of my favorite lines when they arrived in altered forms. You know when someone wants to use the Star Wars theme music, but don't want to have to pay royalties to Disney or John Williams, so they end up with something that sounds LIKE the Star Wars theme music but is also definitely NOT the Star Wars theme music? It kind of felt like that at first. 

However, once I was able to relax into it, I began to enjoy myself. In particular, the translation highlighted how much of the original text I don't truly understand, particularly the humor surrounding the Sir Toby subplot. Intellectually, I know what a lot of Sir Toby's jokes and allusions mean, but knowing why something is funny is not the same as it actually being funny, so it was fun to see modern analogues of those jokes come to life in a much less forced way.

Again and again, my conclusion when it comes to the Play On texts is this: Are modern translations necessary in order to understand and enjoy Shakespeare's plays? Absolutely not. However, these translations, quite apart from being fascinating literary experiments in their own right, provide yet another valuable angle to unlocking the undeniable complexity of Shakespeare's text.

Like Manga Shakespeare, like my comics (I hope), like West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate, like the Hogarth Shakespeare novel series, Play On's translations are another excellent tool in the toolbox of Shakespeare adaptation and exploration. They are not replacing Shakespeare's texts; they are augmenting them. And, if the enthusiastic reaction of the local students who were at the opening night of this production is any indication, they are definitely helping break down some of the barriers to accessing Shakespeare. 

The production itself was a joy, set in the Roaring Twenties with all the fun that entails. Having primarily seen partially-staged readings by Shakespeare in Detroit, it was wonderful to see a fully-realized production, complete with gorgeous sets and costumes. 

Asia Mark's Viola was delightful, nailing the woman's vulnerability and frustration as well as the boy's sauciness and charm. I enjoyed finally seeing an Orsino, played by Reg Flowers, who was as ridiculously and unapologetically melodramatic and self-indulgent as I always want my Orsinos to be, but seldom are. Maria (a wonderfully tart Vicki Morgan) got a well-deserved boost in this production by taking over Fabian's part, and thus not only masterminding but also executing Malvolio's downfall.

On another note, it was so exciting (and, unfortunately, still a novelty to me) to see a production of Shakespeare directed by a woman of color (JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, Artistic Director of the Black Ops Theatre Company in Durham NC), with a cast that was comprised two-thirds of actors of color, none of whom felt compelled to shed their identities and act like cookie-cutter "classic" (a.k.a. white) Shakespeareans. This was a colorful production in many ways, and I hope to see many more like it in the future.

Support your local theatre companies, people. There's gold in them thar hills.

Tonight’s performance is sold out (!!!!) but if you’re in the SE Michigan area and want to catch the closing performance on Sunday, get your tickets now!

Stick Figure Iconography: Viola

Another one of Shakespeare's heroines is the subject of today's iconography:


It's really difficult to pinpoint an "iconic" Viola look. If you just look at a photo of a Viola, you don't really KNOW it's Viola unless you see her face to face with her supposedly identical twin brother. So, in some ways Sebastian is, perversely, the most important piece of Viola iconography.


It's "Stay Sane September"! That means I'll be sharing some of my "greatest hits" from social media and Patreon to keep you entertained while I take the month off in order to avoid burnout, take some theatre trips, and get caught up on various tasks and projects that I have been neglecting. 

Today's comic was originally posted on Patreon while I was in the midst of drawing my Twelfth Night scene-by-scene comics


This is probably one of my more obscure gags, but before I knew "M.O.A.I" from Twelfth Night, I knew "moai" from Easter Island. (IT'S NOT FUNNY IF YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT.)

Thanks to my supporters on Patreon (from whence I re-appropriated this comic) for helping me continue to develop Good Tickle Brain! For $5 a month, you'll get bonus comics like these every week!

Upcoming Appearances

September 28: Cincinnati Museum Insights Lecture

WHO: Me! Again!
WHAT: Talk followed by Q&A on the development of Good Tickle Brain and approaches to making Shakespeare accessible to new audiences. 
WHEN: Thursday, September 28, 7:30pm
WHERE: The University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning
WHY: Because they have a cool Shakespeare exhibit going on right now! 
HOW: Reserve a FREE ticket at the Cincy Museum website!

And Ever Thanks?

It's Thanksgiving Day in America! Let's take a closer look at one of Shakespeare's most famous "thanks" quotes...

Some thoughts:

  1. No, this isn't the only instance of editors messing with Shakespeare's language. OBVIOUSLY. This is just a fairly prominent one that I hadn't noticed before.
  2. I have to say, I think I like Theobald's alteration better than the original.
  3. The next time someone says "Thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks" to me, I'm going to respond with "Ever oft good turns are shuffled off with such uncurrent pay." And then I'm going to sigh deeply.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And, if I can be serious for a moment, thanks to ALL of you for reading and supporting Good Tickle Brain. I wouldn't be doing this without your enthusiasm for my work and your appreciation for the silly side of Shakespeare. A special shout-out to my supporters on Patreon, who have helped give me a certain amount of security as I navigate the exciting but occasionally treacherous waters of being a full-time Shakespeare comic artist. You're all marvelous human beings and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Black Friday at the Good Tickle Shoppe!

Starting at 12:00am EST on Friday, everything in the Good Tickle Shoppe is 20% off when you use the extremely originally-named discount code BLACKFRIDAY2016!  The sale will last through 11:59pm on Monday. In addition, several items will be going on clearance.

But Wait! There's More!

It's starting to slide into winter for those of us in the northern hemisphere, with grey skies and the days growing shorter and the threat of snow on the horizon. So, in a fit of brilliance, I decided it was the perfect time to debut a new item of Good Tickle Brain apparel...

...the Complete Works of Shakespeare TANK TOP!!!

My timing is impeccable.

Anyways, starting tomorrow you will be able to pick up one of these extremely soft and comfy unisex tank tops. I've printed a limited number of them this time around, so if you want one, act quickly! If they sell well, I'll definitely print more of them in the future, but that could be several months away...

...just in time for the return of warm weather, possibly, come to think of it...




Twelfth Night: Final Summary

Aaaand we're finally done with Twelfth Night! In case you missed the last four months of comics, and don't have time to go back and read them all, here's what happened:

Finishing a play means it's time to add up the numbers and decide whether it's a comedy or a tragedy. Let's take a look!

Three marriages and no deaths of named characters means this play is almost certainly a comedy. Hurrah! (Just don't ask me how long I think Sir Toby and Maria's marriage will last..)

Dramatis Personae | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.5, part 1 | 1.5, part 2 | 1.5, part 3|2.1 | 2.2 | 2.3, part 1 | 2.3, part 2 | 2.4, part 1 | 2.4, part 2 | 2.5, part 1 | 2.5, part 2 | 3.1, part 1 | 3.1, part 2 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 3.4, part 1 | 3.4, part 2 | 3.4, part 3 | 3.4, part 4 | 3.4, part 5 | 4.1 | 4.2 | 4.3 | 5.1, part 1 | 5.1, part 2 | 5.1, part 3 | 5.1, part 4 | 5.1, part 5 | 5.1, part 6 | Summary

On Break! 

Hey all! Due to several time-sensitive projects that I need to wrap up (one of them being the long-awaited flowchart poster) plus the very inconveniently-timed mental breakdown of the hitherto-but-no-longer trusty computer on which I draw all my comics, I will be taking next week off. I'll be back on Tuesday, October 11 with your regularly scheduled Shakespeare comics. Thanks for your patience and understanding! 

Twelfth Night: Act 5, Scene 1 (part 6)

It's take a while to get through all the twists and turns and subplots, but we're finally here at the end!

Not pictured: Antonio, sent packing for being a notable pirate and not fitting in the heteronormative dramatic resolution. 

Tune in again on Thursday for a finally summary of Twelfth Night!

Dramatis Personae | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.5, part 1 | 1.5, part 2 | 1.5, part 3|2.1 | 2.2 | 2.3, part 1 | 2.3, part 2 | 2.4, part 1 | 2.4, part 2 | 2.5, part 1 | 2.5, part 2 | 3.1, part 1 | 3.1, part 2 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 3.4, part 1 | 3.4, part 2 | 3.4, part 3 | 3.4, part 4 | 3.4, part 5 | 4.1 | 4.2 | 4.3 | 5.1, part 1 | 5.1, part 2 | 5.1, part 3 | 5.1, part 4 | 5.1, part 5 | 5.1, part 6