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Filter Theatre presents


Twelfth Night

Photo by Tristam Kenton


by William Shakespeare


Directed by Sean Holmes


Tricycle Theatre


27 March – 17 April










A review by Angus Templeton for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s more performed comics works. Set in the mythical kingdom of Illyria, Viola finds herself shipwrecked and homeless. She dresses as a man and insinuates herself into the court of the Duke Orsino, who is attempting to woo Lady Olivia, who instead falls in love with Viola’s façade, Christian. Attached to Olivia’s household are Toby Belch, her uncle, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, another suitor, who provide even more comic relief.

Filter Theatre’s Twelfth Night was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of their Complete Works Festival, back in 2007. Despite only having an initial rehearsal period of ten days, this is the most original piece of theatre I have ever encountered – an impressive feat given how mainstream Shakespeare has become.

When entering the theatre one is struck by paraphernalia of instruments, microphones and cables – making the stage look more like a recording studio than a venue for Shakespearian entertainment. Most of the action takes place centre stage, and everything on the peripheries is there for the other actors to use: supporting, creating ambience, or backing vocals. Malvolio’s soliloquy uses this brilliantly, turning that speech into a rock god tribute to his ego and hubris, with backing from cast members and two musicians.

This production is hard to pigeon hole because it seems too new. The Shakespeare is all still there, plus a few asides and riffs. But I could just as easily define the show as a concept album rather than a theatrical performance. “If music be the food of love, play on,” – so says Orsino in the plays opening, and the cast and crew of Tweflth Night took that refrain and ran with it for the entirety of the performance.

All of the actors were superb, and Twelfth Night is written such that they all have their moment in the sun. The parts I found most enjoyable were Aguecheek and Belch (played by Jonathan Broadbent and Oliver Dimsdale respectively) crooning “What is love” into a mic… which then slowly but surely escalated to the point we had all forgotten we were at the theatre. Then out comes Malvolio (Ferdy Roberts) to berate a poor twelve year old audience member stranded in the middle of the stage (don’t worry, he absolutely loved the attention). By these means the company manages to break the fourth wall, but in such a way that we don’t notice that we’ve been drawn in until we’re already singing along. And when the play continues, though the action never stops, we seamlessly transition from participants back to audience without noticing. From the very beginning you’re invited to join in the revelry and sheer joy of the show. It makes me feel sorry for someone who hasn’t encountered Shakespeare before this. I cannot conceive of a better or more imaginative production.

While it helps if you are already familiar with Twelfth Night, this ninety minute version contains everything you’ll need if it’s your first encounter with the story. Things they’ve added to the text (in no particular order) include: free pizza, a suicide tequila shot, costumes borrowed from the audience, the BBC shipping forecast.

If you like your Shakespeare to be performed as it would have been in Elizabethan times, then this isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to see what this company can do with Shakespeare, music, and excellent physical performances, then make sure you manage to catch Filter’s Twelfth Night.

And if you go sometime in the next two weeks, you’ll probably see me there, again, as well.

Box office:  020 7328 1000

Tricycle Theatre
269 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 7JF

Saturday 8pm, Matinee 2.00pm





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