Theatre Review: Twelfth Night – HOME, Manchester

Twelfth Night by Filter at HOME, Manchester

Wacky, wild and wonderfully weird, Filter’s wonderfully off-kilter production of Twelfth Night is well worth a watch

Music is most definitely the food of love in Filter’s adaptation of Twelfth Night. In fact, rock music meets Shakespeare head on in this explosive reworking of Shakespeare’s lyrical play.

Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola, a young girl who is separated from her twin brother Sebastian following a shipwreck on the shores of Illyria. Disguised as a man, Viola falls in love with Count Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. But upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man and pandemonium ensues.

Wacky, wild and wonderfully weird, music is the backbone of this production. The imaginative use of sound is a Filter speciality and no Shakespeare play yearns for music and song as much as Twelfth Night. The stage is littered with instruments, mics and sound equipment with two onstage musicians jamming throughout. For approximately five minutes, the play also turns into a full-on rock concert, with Malvolio (Fergus O’Donnell) acting like a rock God, in a scene that is both spontaneous and hilarious.

What makes Filter’s adaptation of Twelfth Night so special is the extraordinary mayhem they create in the auditorium. The audience become participants in a feast of misrule, downing shots of tequila on stage with the cast and even joining a conga line on stage. The nocturnal drinking-scene with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew stands out as a highlight, the music building from a slow, melancholy tune into a rowdy, clapalong number, as a huge pizza delivery arrives and slices are generous shared with the audience. Its spontaneous, it’s unconventional and it’s incredibly fun.

The 90-minute production is performed by the small but talented cast of seven who play several roles in the play. Amy Marchant is instantly likable as the plucky Viola, borrowing a hat and jacket from the audience and stuffing a pair of socks down her jeans in an attempt to disguise herself as man. Harry Jardine is equally brilliant as Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, delivering an energetic performance that is almost exhausting to watch.

With his mixed-matched socks and inebriated demeanor, Dan Poole stands out as Sir Toby Belch, who careers dangerously among the electronic equipment, spraying Special Brew over the younger members of the audience. But it is Fergus O’Donnell who steals the show as Malvolio. His transformation scene gets the biggest laughs of the night as he prances around on stage in his yellow stockings and crossed garters in an attempt to woo Olivia.

While there is plenty to love about Filter’s Twelfth Night, the production won’t please the purists. Fast-paced and radically-cut, naturally some aspects of the play get overlooked and as a consequence, it loses some of its melancholy and lyricism.

That said, a great deal of the spirit of the original remains, including Shakespeare’s original lyrics which is performed with wit, style and a touch of magic. If you like your Shakespeare light, funny and little unconventional, you won’t be disappointed with Twelfth Night. A wonderfully off-kilter production that’s well worth a watch.

4 out of 5 stars

Runs until 14 May 2016 | Image: Mark Gavin

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