Writer: William Shakespeare
Music &Sound: Tom Haines &Ross Hughes
Director: Sean Holmes
Reviewer: Jackson Lawrence
Loud, energetic and boisterous, Filter Theatre retells Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in a brilliantly bizarre manner. The production explodes once again onto the stage arriving at Bristol’s transforming Tobacco Factory Theatre. The play tells the story of Violet who (believing her brother to be dead) serves the lovesick Orsino who pines for Lady Olivia. Violet disguises herself as Cesario and becomes a page. Soon, Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who, in turn, falls for her new master and a complex comedy of confusion and contradiction is created.
Filter Theatre, though, takes this in its stride as the company builds on the natural energy of Shakespeare’s script. Oliver Dimsdale and Ferdy Roberts’ redirection of Sean Holmes’ production is quirky and thoroughly entertaining. It seizes the very essence of Shakespearean comedy. Every member of the multi-talented cast is like one of Shakespeare’s own fools through their use of local and topical references in addition to a willingness to interact with the audience at any point during the play. Despite having a bare set design and a minimalistic use of props and lighting, Filter Theatre fills the whole space – stage and auditorium alike – with fun.
Jonathan Broadbent drives the performance through his magnificently unbalanced portrayal of the noble Orsino. He is simply hilarious. He enthusiastically steers the energy onstage into anarchy to capture perfectly Orsino’s lack of responsibility in moments of sheer, chaotic, madness. Broadbent also displays the honest emotion of unreciprocated love and its counter-productive effects on Orsino’s male bravado. He demonstrates in this production knowledge and appreciation of Shakespeare, comedy, music and even gymnastics.
Lizzie Watts also merits commendation for her portrayal of Olivia. One would be forgiven for being under the impression that subtlety holds no place in this in-your-face production, but Watts shows that this is simply not the case. Her intelligent and playful interpretation makes the character fully relatable, despite the eccentric world around her.
Similarly, Fergus O’Donnell presents an amusing characterisation of Malvolio – Olivia’s steward. The way in which the part is written is wonderfully funny and O’Donnell lives up to expectations. The play is performed proficiently by the whole cast and is supported by excellent musicians onstage such as Laura Moody and Alan Pagan. More audience interaction by the musicians would demonstrate the importance of their accompaniment to the play more clearly, especially given that the actors often take-up instruments and contribute to the ambience and sound.
Through the skilled performances of actors and musicians along with the director’s concept based around reviving already established texts, the imagination of the audience is engaged and fully encouraged. Filter Theatre captures the sense of fun with which the play was originally written. Not only does the company strip the performance back to the basics of Shakespearean comedy, but it propels it into the modern day, allowing Sean Holmes’ production to be appreciated as an exciting piece of theatre in its own right.
Runs until Saturday 14th September 2013.