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Twelfth Night

Filter's production of Twelfth Night at the Park Theatre is anarchic, and features good performances from the cast, says Miriam Zendle

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Fergus O'Donnell and Lizzy Watts
© Robert Day

This is Twelfth Night as you've never seen it before (unless you saw this when it came to the Tricycle Theatre way back when). Filter's anarchic, fizzing production rips Shakespeare's well-loved play to shreds, with artistic directors Oliver Dimsdale and Ferdy Roberts appropriating the bits they feel are the most important, intertwining them with music, sound and movement to ‘make stories that truly awaken the imaginative senses of an audience'.

Watching this piece may well put you in mind of the recent furore regarding the Lyric Hammersmith's Secret Shows, where the question arose as to how knowing the name of the show in advance could affect an audience. In this case, if you know Twelfth Night, you'll either be thrilled at the way it's been subverted or hanker for a ‘proper' production of the original text, without the fripperies and twists put on it by Filter. If you don't know Twelfth Night, well, you're in for a faintly confusing but fun night – but you should probably be told at some point that you're not watching the full thing.

So what's good? Polly Frame does a great job as Viola/Sebastian, managing to conjure up real emotion even when, as climax comes, she has to switch characters every line. Frame also has strong chemistry with Lizzy Watt's sparky Olivia, particularly evident in their final scene together. It has to be said that the mashing up of the text doesn't really serve anyone particularly well, meaning emotional moments are not savoured and key characters are sidelined.

There are laughs to be had, too, mainly from the efforts of the versatile Jonathan Broadbent as Sir Andrew Aguecheek – ‘had I but followed the arts,' he rues, after bashing away on the drums and making the audience giggle, later creating a raucous stage party including the audience (after half-bribing them with pizza and tequila), as well as rambling drunkenly about Sir Toby's ‘mellifluous voice, as I am true knight.'

Fergus O'Donnell's Malvolio is enjoyably exuberant, but a bit one-note, while Geoffrey Lumb's Toby Belch comes off as a more belligerent version of Ben Affleck's not-exactly-subtle Ned Alleyn in Shakespeare in Love, although Lumb does demonstrate strong physical acting skills.

The thing is, there's not yet been a perfect production of Twelfth Night. But watching the vocally talented Sandy Foster fool around as Feste and sometimes Maria, it's hard not to think longingly of Paul Chahidi's Maria in the recent Globe production; a perfect comic creation, with nuance and sympathy, whereas Foster, because of the vibe Filter are going for, brings nothing other than a sense of fun and a good singing voice. And that's about the sum of it, really.

- Miriam Zendle