Twelfth Night: Boisterous, a bit of chaos and energetic style over content

Richard Lutz takes his pew for a madcap rendition of Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy.

125x125.fitandcropThere is always a time to take a Shakespeare comedy by its heels, stand it upside down, put it in the blender and shake it all about. The old boy himself would’ve agreed, I think.

And this quick fire ninety minute production by Filter Theatre atThe Birmingham Rep does just that.

The music that “is the food of love” and kicks off this fast paced slapstick is none other than thrash rock and, with acrobatics, audience interaction (a conga, no less), and the quick repartee of ad lib, it’s a play that will either madden or entertain an audience waiting for one of the author’s most popular light comedies.

The play is famously about separated twins and mixed up couples and, also, the pompous Malvolio who gets his just deserts from enemies that go a little too far. And the sub-text is that Shakespeare himself lost a son, a male twin, only years before he wrote this 1601 play. The poignancy of separated girl and boy identicals adds to the bittersweetness of the writing.

Filter’s mayhem and loud music can tend to drown out the turns and twists of the play.  And with the copious editing and cutting back to allow for the anarchic physical comedy,, it means minor charactors disappear and the storyline can be a bit muddy at times. Amy Marchant just didn’t make that subtle difference when she switched from twins Viola and Sebastian and Crystal Condie, as both Feste the Clown and the conniving servant Maria, made the two roles seem too similar also. But there is solid and multi-skilled support from Harry Jardine as both the duke and pathetic scrounger Aguecheek.

But, in all, to keep up the madcap energy is deserving enough of applause. So, a bit of anarchic style over substance but a noisy circus of raucous theatre that drags Elizabethan comedy by the neck into the helter skelter of the electronic 21st century.

Until 16th April.