While Shakespeare may have been confused by the video games, Adidas high-tops and less than flattering references to Prince Philip, there is no doubt he would have been thrilled to see his words performed with the vigor Filter bring to their adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It’s cool, it’s quirky and it’s definitely sexy, but this isn’t just Shakespeare designed to open the eyes of the younger generation. Alongside director Sean Holmes, Filter are masters at employing the most imaginative of theatrical tricks to create a raucous night of surprise and energy, but their tricks are never cheap and while there may be chaos, it’s always perfectly controlled.
Ed Gaughan, as Peter Quince, provides the role of the narrator, staying away from Shakespearian language in favour of banter as the leader of the cast of the play within a play – in this the motley crew are made up of the stage band and a very surprise guest – making the play instantly more accessible as well as bringing it bang up to date with his adlibbed stand-up.
Over in the Athenian forest, where the four confused lovers find themselves in the most surreal of dreams, it’s as classical as it can be when Oberon is a DIY superhero with a bumbag, Puck is a tattooed sound technician with a can of Fosters always at hand and magic is portrayed by glittery blue paint.
The on-stage band provide not only rock interludes and a Tetris-esque soundtrack, but Filter’s trademark sound effects including whizzing nymphs and microphone wizardry. The technical genius doesn’t stop there with a paper set that aids farcical slapstick gems and allows Jonathan Broadbent to fly in all his cat-suited glory.
For all the tricks, the highlights of the show come when the cast fully embrace the text and plough all the show’s raucous vibrancy into every word. Rebecca Scroggs as the desperate, fawning Helena brings to mind every disillusioned friend you’ve ever had to counsel, while Ferdy Roberts adds gravitas as the mischievous – and in this version, literally head-banging – Puck.
It’s in these scenes where the passion of the four lovers, in all its snogging, over-zealous, hand-roaming glory, really comes to life reminding us Shakespeare is anything but reserved. It’s not often you leave a theatre in the mood for finding a party but this is the effect Filter has. They breathe life into every line of the play, every inch of the theatre and, if you’re lucky at the end of a busy week, back into you.