A ROLLICKING, RUMBUSTIOUS TWELFTH NIGHT at Oxford Playhouse.

See on Scoop.itOxford Today

 

A review by Julia Gasper

 

If you like the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and its spoof versions of
the Bard, then you will enjoy this utterly irreverent version of
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by the Filter Company. Filter is actually
an associate of the Royal Shakespeare Company, but you would never
guess that from the style of this production. Fast, furious and taking
a lot of liberties, it gives us a “Twelfth Night” that is a true
saturnalia. 

The whole idea of Twelfth Night is to overturn convention and be
irreverent. The idea of the revelry is to turn most things upside-down
for one wild evening. Order and sobriety are banished and clowns, now
Lords of Misrule, give the orders. The scene is dominated by a jazz
group, just what you would expect at a modern New Year’s Eve
entertainment. You expect to see Jools Holland walk on at any moment,
and Duke Orsino is wearing jeans. Sir Toby Belch (Geoffrey Lumb) is
knocking back beer from a can, and Olivia (Liz Fitzgibbon) is dressed
in shiny leggings as if she is off to a party. Characters speak on
their mobile phones or get messages from radios which also tell us the
shipping forecast – this provides the “storm”. Comical sound effects
abound.

This production, directed by Sean Holmes, makes use of a lot of
audience interaction, demanding that we fill in the missing words of
familiar lines and lend costumes to the cast. Viola nips down into the
stalls and takes a man’s jacket to provide her disguise. When Feste,
the clown, starts to throw around the bobbles on his woolly hat, he
throws them into the audience and invites us to throw them back. The
bobbles turn out to be magnetic and soon everyone is joining in this
wild game of bobble-catching! So when Malvolio turns up to complain
about a noisy riot, there really is a noisy riot, on quite a scale!
What does not work quite so well is having the roles of
Orsino and Sir Andrew doubled by the same actor, still less to have
Maria (in dungarees) doubling the role of Feste. Sarah Belcher took
both the roles of Viola and Sebastian, which makes the ending rather
unsatisfactory, as the whole point is meant to be that two were
mistaken for one. With only one, it is hard to see how the resolution
can be reached – she can’t marry both Orsino and Olivia.

 

The production cuts a lot of the text, and uses only one set, cramming the play into 90 minutes with no interval. The idea is to get the play
over in the time of a cinema feature film, before anyone can get
bored, and then we can all go home. i wonder if someone who did not
know the plot would actually be able to follow it in this production.
It was clear that many of the younger members of the audience enjoyed
this approach, and had an entertaining evening out. However, much of
the poetry and the subtler aspects were lost in this production, so
anyone studying it for school should really see a few more versions.

Julia Gasper.

 www.oxfordprospect.co.uk 

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