Saturday, 29 May 2010


29/5/10, Tricycle

90 mins, no interval. Filter's take on the play, a jam session with a cast of six, two musicians and a stage manager sitting at the back with her laptop, heavily cut but with all the famous bits kept in... demonstrating once again how robust Shakespeare's stuff is, what punishment it can take; and how familiar many of his lines are. Though what it would mean if one didn't know the play and the text I'm not sure.

This was the rough theatre version, originally seen as part of the RSC's full works season in 2008, directed by Sean Holmes. A bare stage and no scenery except for the Tricycle's battered proscenium, which sits way back in the playing area and tonight had been painted red white and blue (for the theatre's next production we were told, since this was Filter's last night: "I wouldn't want you to think Filter's some extension of the BNP," the frontman said). Viola borrowed her man's coat and hat from members of the audience, Feste wore a red nose, there was musical accompaniment from an electronic bass sitting centre stage at the back and various keyboards, percussion, sax and trumpet scattered on tables at either side, and much singing, dancing and mucking about with the PA. Illyria was identified as a sea area in the shipping forecast; characters used mobile phones and intercoms to communicate.

The musical highlights included a heavy metal solo, complete with air guitar, for Malvolio, and a nighttime revel for the drunken Belch and Aguecheek which started off very quietly ("Shhhh!") and gradually snowballed to include the whole audience throwing velcro balls at the velcro-covered heads of Aguecheek and a handful of audience members, abnd Agucheek distributing takeaway pizzas round the auditorium.

Malvolio (Ferdy Roberts) looked like a cross between Willie Rushton and the Marquess of Bath ("the one with the wifelets," D said), dressed all in black until he stripped down post-solo to his bright yellow socks, underpants and curious stockings, a bit like exaggerated legwarmers. Sir Toby (Oliver Dimsdale) was the only member of the cast in Elizabethan costume.

Olivia's Yorkshire accent kept showing through; Olivia (Poppy Miller) spoke the lines classily and was almost convincing as both brother and sister in the final scene, but was a lousy mover; the woman who played Maria and Feste (Gemma Saunders) had an engagingly cheeky stage persona (bleached blonde bob, baggy black harem pants, striped top); Jonathan Broadbent doubled as Orsino and Aguecheek and had the greatest stage presence (and did a mean backflip too). Much of it was genuinely funny, especially Belch and Aguecheek, and that's not something you can always say of a production of a Shakespeare comedy.

The production's been brought back more than once by the Trike, for whom it was originally a runaway success, but they've come once too often to the well: the theatre was only just over half full, even though it was a Saturday night, and they had to work hard to generate the necessary atmosphere. I wasn't sure what seeing it added to my understanding of Twelfth Night or my appreciation of the play. But I'd happily see another Filter production

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