Filter / RSC, Twelfth Night

Review in Issue 21-1 | Spring 2009

It was a very clever proposal to hook up Filter, whose work has always played with the marriage of live music and theatre-making, and Shakepeare’s immortal opener ‘If music be the food of love, play on’. Indeed, in this witty adaptation of the tragic-comedy (commissioned and co-produced by the RSC), it comes as something of a revelation to discover, in this clever cut, the extent to which music features as a theme within the play. Often in modern productions its songs are recited, spoken or simply edited out; here instead they are set pieces, emotionally and thematically expressive. Never have Sir Toby and Sir Andrew’s drunken revels been so affirmingly festive, and never this world so triumphantly theatrical, and joyfully playful.

The company use a wide open staging, bare except for their costumes and shaped by the figures of instruments (including a rather beautiful electric double bass) and all manner of electronic trickery to produce sfx – from the functional to the orchestral. Against this backdrop the poetry of the verse is heightened and, generally, empowered. (Although there were moments when the underlying laid-back aesthetic of a gig infected the tone of some of the speech. There was a sense in which the emotional content of the play had been transposed from literature to music.)

The overall effect is of something more than theatre: this is Shakespeare plus and the injection of gig triumphantly energises the interpretation. Situating sound imaginatively within live performance has been an ongoing project of devised work, but Filter, in this apotheosis of their approach show they are inarguably the creative vanguard of this aesthetic. Inspiring stuff.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Sep 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-1
p. 31