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Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night from Filter returns to The Tricycle
Present mirth hath present laughter. — Feste
Twelfth Night
Gemma Saunders as Feste and Ferdy Roberts as Malvolio (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
Filter.s Twelfth Night developed in conjunction with the RSC is a delightful concoction. As their name suggests this theatre company distils the essentials of Shakespeare.s play and provides a fun evening with music. The performances are if anything more polished than when I saw it in the autumn of 2008. I enjoyed the topicality of Viola (Poppy Miller), when shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, clutching some election leaflets, looking puzzled and asking "Who governs here?" You see, we were watching it on election night 2010 before the results were known.

I think it would be a good idea to have some idea of the story before you see it or you might be confused by the rapid developments of the plot, not least when Poppy Miller has to play both twins with a turn of her head. With the RSC.s truncated Hamlet for Schools and their taking shortened versions of Henry V and As You Like It to New York, maybe filtered Shakespeare will become on trend. Ferdy Roberts shows Malvolio.s cruelty to Maria (Gemma Saunders) to provide her with a motive but we experience the dark side of the play when Malvolio is imprisoned and unforgiving.

Everything that Charlotte described in her original review below applies. Victoria Moseley.s interesting Olivia strengthens the production. Updated Production Notes:
Twelfth Night
Credits as below in the original production
Cast change: Victoria Moseley instead of Syreeta Kumar as Olivia
Running time: One hour 30 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7328 1000
Booking at the Tricycle to 29th May 2010
Touring Dates
14th-19th June 2010: Bath Theatre Royal
13th - 18th September: Newbury Corn Exchange
20th - 25th September: The Tobacco Factory, Bristol
27th September - 2nd October: Hall for Cornwall
11th - 16th October: The Curve, Leicester
1st- 6th November: The Lowry, Salford
15th - 20th November: The Rose, Kingston
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 6th May 2010 performance at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR (Tube:Kilburn)
Earlier Review by Charlotte Loveridge

Present mirth hath present laughter. . .— Feste
Twelfth Night
Oliver Dimsdale as Belch, Jonathan Broadbent as Aguecheek and Syreeta Kumar as Maria. (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
Filter, a bright company who combine energy with innovative stage effects, first produced their Twelfth Night as part of the RSC's Complete Works festival in 2006. Now returning for another run at the Tricycle Theatre in London, this very funny and fresh production brings back its riotous energy and controlled anarchy. At just eighty-five minutes long, this quick-paced and compressed version is the perfect antidote for anyone jaded with Shakespeare.

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.

Twelfth Night
By William Shakespeare
Created by Filter
Directed by Sean Holmes

With: Jonathan Broadbent, Oliver Dimsdale, Syreeta Kumar, Poppy Miller, Ferdy Roberts, Gemma Saunders
Musicians: Tom Haines, Ross Hughes, Alan Pagan, Russell Marsh
Sound design: Tom Haines, Ross Hughes
Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes with no interval
Filter in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company
Box Office: 020 7328 1000
Booking to 27th September 2008
Reviewed by Charlotte Loveridge based on 2nd September 2008 performance at The Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 7JR (Tube: Kilburn)
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