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A CurtainUp London Review
Earlier Review by Charlotte Loveridge
The set is an undisguised mess of equipment, cables, mixing decks and even an electric double bass. Impressive sonic effects assault the audience's senses and create an all-immersing atmosphere. Music is rightfully central to this Twelfth Night and when, for example, Orsino demands an "excess" of song, they take his order literally and there is a wild party of music in response.
In casual modern dress, the cast look like they have simply turned up as they were, assuming no particular make-up or costume. Together with the acoustic ingenuity and the postmodern staging, this gives the production an extra edge of integrity. It is as if the heightened aural reality and the lack of design artifice makes the emotion more sincere.
This production is full of playful originality and executed with a sense of sheer fun; For example, a messenger speech is delivered by a mobile phone held up to a microphone. A radio tuned to a shipping forecast tells of the heavy storm which separated the twins and informs Viola what country she is in. However, Filter have always contained their innovative vigour with self-discipline and this restraint is remarkable in a company with so much madcap talent. Here, they temper the boisterous comedy by embracing the darkness and cruelty of the play, which is often glossed over by more straightforward productions. The menace which Malvolio suffers is revealed in all its malicious brutality and the madness scene, enacted on a completely pitch-black stage, is truly chilling.
With a cast of just six actors (and three musicians), there is character doubling which, as well as for reasons of economy, works to explicate many of the play's parallelistic personality traits. So Jonathan Broadbent, for example, plays both Orsino and Aguecheek with his catlike grin and grace, emphasizing the characters' delusion in their hopeless pursuit of and unrequited love for Olivia. Poppy Miller as Viola also cleverly doubles up a somewhat abridged Sebastian.
Ferdy Roberts' Malvolio reveals just what a consummate actor he is with an incredibly sympathetic and hilarious performance which is central to bringing out the play's darker elements. Gorgeously pedantic and supercilious, his Olivia fantasy is accompanied by a rock-rhythm to show the intensity of his desire. Oliver Dimsdale's Sir Toby Belch is the only character in period costume and played with delightful uniqueness, if slightly straying from the text. He first stumbles across the back of the stage, drunkenly spouting a Hamlet soliloquy. He downs real pints and tequila shots onstage and his sobriety visibly starts to degenerate.
Shakespeare purists may find the production too original and the audience probably need to know the plot too, but this Twelfth Night has a variety of tempo and texture of feeling which baffles expectations and provides an exhilarating experience. Filter have revitalised a classic play with an utterly charming, amusing and inventive version.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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