Promo pics were either too small or surprisingly unwieldy
Twelfth Night, at The Corn Exchange, Newbury, from Tuesday, September 14 to Saturday, September 18
IF music be the food of love, love probably needed to pop an indigestion tablet after the feast of fun that was Filter’s interpretation of Twelfth Night, which returned to The Corn Exchange for a five-night run following their 2008 visit. This was Shakespeare with its guts out, quite literally as the undressed stage was littered with the wires of various musical instruments, microphones, speakers and other electronic gizmos, and a recalcitrant stage manager, huffily sat at the back and occasionally required to take a front-of-house roll during the anarchy.
The cast and musicians were equally underdressed; while only co-artistic director Oliver Dimsdale as Toby Belch wore a ruff to suggest that despite the modern gadgetry the production still doffed its cap to times past, Poppy Miller as Viola borrowed a jacket from the audience to complete her manservant guise.
Much of the focus of was on the shenanigans of drunken twerps Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, who inveigled the audience into their illicit debauchery with pizza, tequila shots, a conga line and an anarchic game of “Butthead” - throwing soft balls at a velcro cap worn by Nicholas Tennant as Aguecheek. Darker was their torment of greasy steward Malvolio(artistic co-director Ferdy Roberts), whose modelling of the yellow stockings donned in a misguided attempt to woo a poised Olivia (Victoria Moseley) was truly the stuff of rock and roll nightmares.
Although it has been described as a great introduction to Shakespeare for the uninitiated, this pared-down production would probably only make sense to those with a passing familiarity with the text, as the cast doubled up for several parts, with the difference only noted by the addition of a clown’s nose to distinguish Gemma Saunders’ Feste from Maria, the wacky hat to transform Orsino into Aguecheek, or, in the case of twins Viola and Sebastian, no costume change at all. This only added to the in the final scene, as Miller, in both parts, flitted from one passionate embrace to another with the twins’ respective loves.
Purists hat consider abridged and tweaked versions of Shakespeare’s work to be akin to heresy might be appeased by the fact that the production was presented in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Lively, crazy and unexpected, I am sure that Shakespeare himself would have approved.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News, September 23, 2010