A Shakespeare-heavy week starts here, although I think I'm safe in assuming the next two trips will be a bit more traditional than tonight's. And it's my second Twelfth Night this year, but it's fair to say it's a fairly different production than the RSC's rather by-the-numbers take on the play (although funnily enough Filter's version is also an RSC co-production.) Although I wasn't sold on Filter's Three Sisters, this is the third year running this well-regarded adaptation has come to the Tricycle Theatre so I figured I'd give it a go (tonight's was actually the first performance this run but almost the entire cast have been doing the show for years which is why I haven't flagged it as a preview.) I had an inkling there might be audience participation but three years studying drama gave me immunity to onstage embarassment so I sat in the front row. The good news is if you sit near the front you get a piece of pizza; I'm sure many people would also consider it good news that you may get pulled up on stage and asked to do a tequila shot. I kinda assumed it'd be cold tea which is what usually doubles for drinks onstage, but turns out it wasn't. I've been teetotal for nearly 3 years now so it's a good job it was just the one shot, even that left me feeling woozy (it didn't help that I had a dodgy stomach already.) Still, I got applause when I went back to my seat, AND WE ALL KNOW THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS! And it could have been worse - the American students sitting on my left were required to dance. *shudder*
So, having dealt with my moment in the spotlight, do we care about the rest of the review? Oh all right, quickly then. Using their technique that heavily relies on clever sound effects, Filter and director Sean Holmes focus entirely on the play's party atmosphere, the bare stage littered with instruments, sound boards and cables. As well as being the food of love music becomes some characters' inner monologue, while Ferdy Roberts' Malvolio becomes a frustrated rock star, the infamous letter causing him to strip to his underwear and writhe around the stage. The approach certainly works better here than it does to Chekhov, and there's a lot of strong performances (I really liked Gemma Saunders doubling as Maria and Feste.) Only 6 actors plus a couple of musicians on stage means some doubling and a lot of characters excised completely (the play's cut down to 90 minutes.) Some things work better than others, and there's some genuinely hilarious ideas thrown into the mix, but as with Three Sisters I did get the feeling that Holmes & co were a bit impressed with their own cleverness (the programme includes the rather preposterous credit "Created by Filter." "Adapted" I could buy but "Created?") Don't get me wrong, it is a lot of fun to watch, but I couldn't help thinking it looked like the actors were having a wee bit more fun than the audience ever could.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is booking until the 29th of May at the Tricycle Theatre.