Filter Theatre Slices and Dices Twelfth Night at Duke Performances. Why Can’t We Leave the Bard Alone—and Vice Versa? | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

Filter Theatre Slices and Dices Twelfth Night at Duke Performances. Why Can’t We Leave the Bard Alone—and Vice Versa? 

Shakespeare shenanigans: Filter Theatre's Twelfth Night. Photo courtesy of Duke Performances

Shakespeare shenanigans: Filter Theatre's Twelfth Night. Photo courtesy of Duke Performances

I started researching Filter Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company's Twelfth Night, which Duke Performances presents this weekend, by watching the ten-minute trailer on YouTube. It's quite entertaining. It devotes its first minute to a thorough, comic milking of the famous opening line ("If music be the food of love ..."). It captures the live feel of the madcap, music-driven show, which was conceived by a company of theater friends from college, and it tidily unfolds most of the plot.

The "radically cut, fast-paced" staging, as Filter describes it, is about ninety minutes long, but if it's possible to get the whole thing enjoyably done in ten, why an additional eighty? Why see the play at all, actually—and is the play even what we're seeing? Is a half-length Twelfth Night really Twelfth Night? And does it matter if it is—or isn't?

If all of this sounds familiar, it's because four years ago, Duke Performances presented another condensed, madcap, music-driven Shakespeare comedy created by college theater friends whose company name is a six-letter word starting with F (Cymbeline, Fiasco). How different is Filter Theatre's Twelfth Night, really? Most of Shakespeare, especially the comedies, is essentially interchangeable: a handful of famous scenes pried out of hours of dense, difficult, obsolete dramaturgy.

In our fifth century of doing Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, one wonders if we have finally squeezed his ideas dry, reducing him to some kind of theatrical click bait. This weekend, Carolina Ballet opens its Spring Shakespeare Festival with Love Speaks, in which his sonnets are set to Baroque music, plus just the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Next up is a "dance meditation" on The Tempest.

Maybe, in the era of Tinder and Twitter, Spotify and Auto-Tune, SportsCenter and sous vide, this is fine: Shakespeare not as theater so much as infinitely remixed content. Danced Shakespeare, mashed-up Shakespeare, shrunken Shakespeare. Twelfth Night in twelve minutes. Cymbeline in a thimble. The Tempest in tutus.

There are, perhaps, reasons to worry about this trend (and Tinder, and Auto-Tune), but the most boring Shakespeare productions are the ones that just do the whole play, solemnly, in doublets. They're like three hours of church in a foreign language. Nothing about Shakespeare comes naturally to us. We must resort to artifice. In order for Shakespeare to mean something, we have to do something to Shakespeare—or let him do something to us.

The first full-length play I ever wrote transposed Hamlet onto a truck stop. That gave my grungy diner-tragedy a philosophical spookiness I couldn't have created myself, along with murderous intensity. A few years ago, I was commissioned to raid Timon of Athens for a found-text script about the Vorticist art movement, co-founded by Ezra Pound. I'd already spent three years trying futilely to dramatize Pound. Three weeks of grafting him onto Timon made Pound's protean character clear: lordly benevolence undone by fatuity and flattery, finally driven to madness and misanthropy.

We may not hear our language in Shakespeare's, or see our rooms and cities in his castles and forests. But he explains our world to us through his stories and characters—and, especially, in the ways we stage his plays. Filter Theatre and Carolina Ballet may or may not reveal new things about his works. No matter; go and see. The greatness of Shakespeare is that every time we put him onstage, he reveals the way we see him, and thus the way we see.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Shake it up"

  • The show joins a chorus of Shakespeare revisions, at Carolina Ballet and elsewhere, in the Triangle this season.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I commend Mr.Woods on his insight. There is a lot to think about in both his article and the following …

by natty on Justice Theater Project's superbly sung and choreographed The Color Purple has one fatal flaw (Theater)

I saw this show in Chapel Hills. This was the first time I had seen a Paperhand's show. It was …

by Irene Griest on Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s The Beautiful Beast Makes Merry With Monsters of Myth and Memory (Theater)

Great review! Fans of Decision Height and the Women's Theatre Festival may also want to check out The ArtsCenter's interview …

by The ArtsCenter on Superheroines Historical and Fantastical Power Two Memorable Women's Theatre Festival Shows (Theater)

Four of our friends accompanied us to this production. We have seen other Wendy Ward productions and loved them all …

by Gann Watson on Embark on a Timely Voyage Into Immigration Issues in I Wish You a Boat (Theater)

Thanks for the correction, Dustin. The playbill listed the wrong actor in the role.

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Evaluating Bare Theatre's Experiment in Free Public Shakespeare on the Eve of Its Final Show (Theater)

Comments

I commend Mr.Woods on his insight. There is a lot to think about in both his article and the following …

by natty on Justice Theater Project's superbly sung and choreographed The Color Purple has one fatal flaw (Theater)

I saw this show in Chapel Hills. This was the first time I had seen a Paperhand's show. It was …

by Irene Griest on Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s The Beautiful Beast Makes Merry With Monsters of Myth and Memory (Theater)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation