Un-fi ltered Shakespeare

Play group Filter Theatre delivers a unique take on The Twelfth Night

The Filter Theatre’s performance of “Twelfth Night” was everything but traditional Shakespeare. The audience walked in to the Williams Arts Center auditoriumlast Tuesday and saw the stage already set with tables and chairs strewn about, holding instruments, digital equipment and an assortment of odd props. The sides of the stage were exposed, giving a raw, unusual feel from the start.

It was unclear at the beginning that the actors playing the instruments would ultimately become the characters of the show’s story. A casually dressed “conductor” began urging the musicians to turn it up, give him more and fine tune the sound. He hopped from the stage into the audience asking the opinions of seated patrons and encouraging them to critique what they heard. Some musicians used what seemed to be remote controls while others used drum sets and guitars to create the jazzy, eerie tune.

The show maintained this interactive quality throughout. Viola/Sebastian, played by Amy Marchant, was the second character to walk through the house. When she climbed onto the stage, she requested a man’s jacket and hat from willing audience members. Her performance was honest, believable and entertaining. All the actors worked well with their fellow cast mates, creating an engaging, integrated group.

The show was set in Illyria. It is based on the theme that the characters in it can hear the music in their minds through a transistor radio. This theme was inspired by the famous line, “If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it.” Each character used music to demonstrate their pointsand enhance their messages.

Sir Toby Belch, played by Dan Poole, was the only character on stage who dressed in Shakespeare-period clothes. He played his part as the accidentally insightful drunk very well. At one point in the show, he “threw a party,” complete with loud music, energetic dancing, screams from the audience and trays of pizza to be passed out amongst a few lucky audience members.

The audience seemed to be invested in the production—laughing, clapping and yelling throughout. In one scene,Malvolio, played by Fergus O’Donnell, came out of his somewhat structured shell. He stripped down to shiny, gold, underwear and danced rambunctiously across the stage and through the house.

Filter Theater was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to make a creative response to “Twelfth Night.” After rehearsing for only 10 days, the show came to be, and made its debut in Stratford-upon-Avon in England, said to be the hometown of the Bard, in 2006.

The play cleverly interwove lines, themes and characteristics from “Twelfth Night,” while presenting a totally original concept and performance. It identifies with the alternative, punk style, which originated from workshops conducted by Filter and Sean Holmes. It was one of the most unusual and unique things I have ever seen. All of the actors showed an extreme level of commitment to their roles and to the storyline.

I give this show an A.

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