By Janina Lupprian
Hotel Illyria is a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and due to the constraints of the corona pandemic, it was produced as a Zoom play instead of a live stage play. In contrast to the original Twelfth Night, Hotel Illyria is set in the modern world, in 2020, during the corona pandemic and includes the ongoing real-world struggles instead of omitting them. Thus, instead of the region Illyria, the play takes place in the fictional hotel Illyria. To battle the real-life constraints of limited meeting possibilities and social distancing, the action of the play is transformed into video chats, calls and onscreen texts that are managed via Zoom and well-designed digital addendums, such as the inclusion of onscreen messages, that are then read out by their respective characters.
We find Duke Orsino, who figures himself a pop star and owns hotel Illyria, in love with the rich heiress Olivia, who has rented out the whole 11th floor to mourn her father and brother and who has no interest in any dalliance with a man at the moment. A few roles have been changed like Sir Toby who is now Dame Toby, which makes the interactions between her and Sir Andrew even better. Antonio has also been switched to Antonia, an employee of the rival hotel Arden.
The addition of a completely new role, the concierge, is brilliantly done as it allows the audience to participate as a sort of confidante to the concierge. Furthermore, the character serves as the narrator and gives the audience a necessary exposition interspersed with witty remarks, including some well-placed Shakespeare quotes.
While at first glance it might seem nigh on impossible to convert the story and interactions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night into an online format, the adaptation works remarkably well. A special praise must be awarded not only to all the actors but also the directors and producers for being able to transform the play that well into the Zoom format. The addition of music both during the play as well as in the opening and ending was incredibly well done, both the composition and the performances themselves. In general, the acting and writing was great and hardly any role or character was overshadowed by another.
Overall, Hotel Illyria is one of the, if not the very first full Zoom play and despite any obstacles or constraints shows a beautiful contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.