Theatre review: Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night

An evening of conga dancing, ball juggling, tequila-downing and pizza guzzling may sound more office party than Shakespeare play.

But that’s what’s on offer in Filter Theatre’s riotous ‘redux’ of the Bard’s Twelfth Night - and that’s just what the audience get up to during the searing 90 minute performance.

The talented company tear up the original text and don’t bother trying to put it together again, staging the tale of love and cross-dressing by way of a rock gig.

‘If music be the food of love’ becomes an audience call-and-response opening line, before the play unfolds like tracks scribbled on a gaffer-taped setlist.

In all honesty, there’s actually very little actual Shakespeare here, other than the cherry-picked sections of plot and maybe half an hour of dialogue used to link set-pieces.

Most of the (uniformly excellent) cast take on the roles of several characters, making the story pretty much impenetrable for anybody coming to the play cold.

But who cares about what’s actually going on when there’s so much fun to be had with high concept japery?

Lines are delivered on mobile phones, mini amplifiers and radios, while the actors get the chance to show off each and every party trick they have.

Jonny Broadbent has great fun as a back-flipping Orsino, acting as the main conduit for the plentiful and playful audience interaction.

Liz Fitzgibbon throws herself with noisy abandon into the passionate Olivia, while Sarah Belcher does a creditable job with the somewhat underwritten role of Viola/Sebastian.

Meanwhile Geoffrey Lumb gives a masterclass in drunken acting as the staggering, Special Brew-swilling Toby Belch.

But it’s Fergus O’Donnell’s Malvolio that emerges as the star of the show. Giddy with lust for Olivia and stripped down to the briefest pair of gold lame pants, he writhes and postures like the rock god he mistakenly believes himself to be, before his eventual spectacular fall from grace.

It all finishes, of course, with a song - reinforcing the impression that it’s perhaps more eye-popping panto than play.

In short, Twelfth Night is a high-octane blast which has near-universal appeal, albeit one that may leave Shakespeare purists somewhat bemused.