Review Twelfth Night, Cast, Doncaster (Until Saturday)

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Though the idea of a musical interpretation of Twelfth Night admittedly conjures up visions of all sorts of Lloyd Webberesque hideousness, but don’t worry – this a completely different rebranding of the bard.

Not that it’s Twelfth Night as you know it – it’s more of a greatest hits set, with the Filter company cherrypicking the bits they want from the play and just ignoring the rest.

But though they’ve skipped a fair bit of the story they add a lot more elements, and mainly surprising, incongruous ones at that.

They skip through a variety of theatrical styles – mime, tumbling, clowning and even a smidge of straight acting but it’s the madcap mayhem of the performance that stands out a mile – this is Shakespeare by way of the Marx Brothers with surprising visual elements galore – how often are you going to see people catching balls on their heads whilst dancing to a Shakespeare sonnet, with musical accompaniment which owes more than a debt to Leonard Cohen?

The music indeed may be the best thing about the night – it varies from Tom Waitsian battered jazz through folksong and lunatic polka to an almost straight version of Tequila, with more than a bit of theremin bothering and vocal effects chucked in for good measure.

In one sequence, featuring Malvolio, the music even comes across like Gong in one of their spacier moments.

The performances are great throughout with particular props going to Sandy Foster,as Maria/Feste, Lizzy Watts’ OliviaPolly Frame as Viola and Sebastian, Geoffrey Lumb’s Toby Belch and Fergus O’Donnell as a madcap Malvolio.

Overall the play’s a delight – funny, oddly moving and with more than enough going on to enthrall even those with ADD though it must be said that if you go in not knowing the story of Shakespeare’s crossdressing comedy, you’re unlikely to come out much the wiser.

But reviewing this is missing the point really – it’s a performance to be experienced, not analysed.

Po mo without being po-faced and certainly the most fun you’ll have a Doncaster theatre this year. As someone once said ‘This is very midsummer madness’.