Tag Archives: British council arts

“Twelfth Night is about the madness of love”: Oliver Dimsdale, Filter theatre

Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter theatre on turning around a 400-year-old script and using a music and sound to keep the theatre experience live

  • Why is the production staged almost like a rehearsal? Why is it so minimal on stage?

When we made the show we only had 10 days to rehearse it, and a limited amount of money. This limited us to a smaller number of actors and meant that we didn’t have the budget for an expensive set. That’s why we have double roles with some actors.

“If music be the food of love, play on” is the first line of Twelfth Night. The play is about every form of love, and we interpreted that in as many forms of music and song too. We knew we were going to work with music and sound, the text, and the actors, so why make it any more than that?
If there is a design, or a concept behind the rehearsal aesthetic of the show, it is that there is a band on stage. They are Orsino’s band, helping him to find that ‘strain’ that unlocks the key to Olivia’s heart. They are also the band in Olivia’s household – Feste’s band perhaps. In that respect all we need is the equipment that a band has.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night by Filter theatre ©Robert Day

  • How did the idea of ‘Filter’s Twelfth Night’ come about?

We got invited to go and be part of the RSC’s Complete Works after we’d performed Caucasian Chalk Circle for the National Theatre London, and they offered us a full rehearsal period. We said we’d like to approach Twelfth Night. Because there was no pressure on us, we were only going to do three performances up in Stratford for their Complete Works Festival and it was a tiny little footnote in the big, grand programme of the RSC.

Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter theatre

Oliver Dimsdale, Artistic Director, Filter Theatre

Twelfth Night’s definitely Shakespeare’s most lyrical play and Sean Holmes (the director) suggested that we use the Filter process to free ourselves of the shackles that can plague more traditional Shakespeare productions. The ethos was really ‘Let’s chuck the play into the room, add sound designers and brilliant actors and a me, and let’s just see what comes out of the process’, and sure enough sometimes when you’re using the gut and the heart instead of the head for inspiration, irreverent, interesting and dynamic things can come out of it.

  • You started off with six actors. How did you go about casting it and making those decisions?

A couple of suggested doublings from Sean were brilliant. The Fool and Maria (a double) both have huge vendettas against Malvolio and have good reasons to want to exact a revenge so at the point at which you see the Fool putting the nose on Malvolio at the end, there are echoes of Maria’s revenge as well in laying the letter down.

Andrew Aguecheek and Orsino (again, a double) are both in love with the same woman, so there were many echoes which was the point. And the Viola/ Sebastian double is obviously a very tricky double, but we think it adds a really lovely ambiguity and innuendo, a ‘ménage à trois’ going on with all these people that are chasing one person.

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

  • What is the significance of using so many microphones and sound technology?

In our production of Twelfth Night we use the natural voice, the amplified voice (microphones), the distorted voice (reverberated through use of a ‘memory man’ distortion machine), and a pre-recorded voice (i.e. the Shipping Forecast on the radio).

Sound is very important to Filter, though very often not central to many other theatre productions, where it’s very often tacked on to the end of a rehearsal process. Filter shows have sound design and music at the very heart of the action on stage because we work very closely with sound designers and composers.

If you show the sound being created on stage, we think it frees the audience to think beyond the boundaries of theatre, whereas if you simply hear sound effects or music on stage whilst not seeing where and who is creating it, it feels like you are trying to con the audience that the play, or the scene, is happening in a particular period or environment.

In Filter shows there is always a playfulness and an honestly about the relationship between the actor, the story and the sound designer on-stage that we believe is an exciting ‘live’ aspect to theatre. It’s about keeping the experience of theatre as live as possible, not always so pre-recorded, or second-hand.

  • Why does the actor playing Sir Toby Belch wear traditional Elizabethan costume?

The idea came from when I originally played Sir Toby 10 years ago. When we’d done the first performance, I’d been sitting around on stage, like the rest of the cast, in jeans and a T-shirt, and it just didn’t seem to work for me personally, as well as with Belch being an anarchic whirlwind who is constantly disrupting Olivia’s household, causing mayhem.

So I took myself off to the RSC Costume department and fitted myself in a clichéd Elizabethan doublet and hose, and ruff. Nobody else knew about this, and no one on stage knew what I was going to do. I made sure I had a can of Special Brew (beer) and there was food hidden everywhere around the stage. During the performance I entered and exited the stage whenever I wanted to during the scenes.

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

We wanted to get away from the cliched portrayal of Belch. We wanted him to be real – as real as possible – by having a young Sir Toby Belch dressed in doublet and hose searching for alcohol, to embrace what the character is about. He’s desperately looking for the next drink to forget his woes.”
The really interesting thing about the experiment was that not only was it demonstrating the destructive element in Belch with Olivia’s household, but there was also the notion of there being the remnants of this 400-year-old text that we were speaking and that this is the way that it was done originally but with a bit of a twist because he’s got a can of Special Brew and he’s genuinely drunk.

The play is about the madness and wonder of love. Every character is in love with, or loved by, another character, in many different ways. It is also his most lyrical play, and hence the amount of different types of music in our show.

  • Where do you draw the line between interpretation and adaptation when approaching Twelfth Night?

The play is called Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and the production draws inspiration from both the title and the subtitle. We interpret and adapt from the original, but never at the expense of the robust emotional heart of Shakespeare’s play. The first version of the production was a response to Twelfth Night, and in many ways that’s what it still is, but we are actually incredibly faithful to the linear structure of Shakespeare’s original play.

This post was contributed by Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter Theatre. Find out about Twelfth Night tour dates in your city.

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World Voice Project: Master Trainer workshop in Delhi

The Master Trainer workshop held in August 2015 was a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with World Voice colleagues from our Himalayan partner states and welcoming back our dear WVP Artistic Director, Richard Frostick.

world voice delhi

Shubhangi Tewari, WVP trainer, conducting a session with participants

 

 

Having Richard amongst us, infuses us with loads of inspiration, new techniques as well as, ideas for the forthcoming WVP year. I re-call attending my first WVP workshop in March 2013. Watching Richard interact with school children and help them to find their singing voices was truly heart-warming. The positivity, love and ease with which he communicated with the students, has stayed with me and continues to inspire my own practice as a WVP trainer.

During the recent Master Trainer Workshop, I had an opportunity to share experiences from the World Voice Manchester residency program, which I had attended. Here I met WVP leaders and master trainers from across the world! We marvelled at the authenticity with which British Primary School children sang in languages from countries as diverse as Argentina, Chile, Brazil, the UK, Senegal, Ethiopia, Jordan, Palestine, Nepal and India at the residency finale concert in Manchester University.

world voice project Delhi

WVP workshop participants in New Delhi

It is the third year for WVP in India, and the state master trainers’ shared their incredible work with school children in Himachal, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Jammu, Delhi and the NCR. It was indeed wonderful to receive feedback from teachers that ever since they started singing in the classroom on a regular basis; the students were happier, smiled a lot more, were more energetic, alert, getting better at remembering facts or concepts and attended school more regularly!

On a personal note, singing is the most significant part of my life. I experience the happiness it provides on a daily basis. To be able to extend this joy to young people is the most valuable aspect of working with the World Voice Project.

Post by: Shubhangi Tewari, WVP Trainer 

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It’s that time of the season again

It is hard to forget the buzz, the busy-ness and the excitement of the Akram Khan tour. 17 days on the road and boy – what a ride it was! It has been 3 weeks since we all came back from the buzz and before we know it – it is that time again.

While we are getting to grips with workshops, talk sessions, sorting the dance mats, sorting the rehearsal spaces, pre-rigs and what not, Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) is packing their bags for a smooth landing in Chennai next Thursday. They are a very enthusiastic bunch – a whole range of workshops and showcases await them and they are asking for more. If there ever was a packed schedule for a company, SDT’s schedule would beat that hands down.

They start their tour with workshops with school kids, dancers, under privileged children, special needs children and their teachers; a lecture demonstration with school teachers and talk sessions with technical teams. They bring acclaimed choreographies of James Wilton, Hofesh Shechter and Liv Lorent and we are just waiting in anticipation to feast on the performances.

I know it is going to be double manic – just considering the strength of the team and the places they have to be in. i know it is going to be double hectic – but I also know it is going to be fun like all the rest has been. Something about arts and its environment –the most serious problems are fun to solve, the missed meals don’t affect our bodies and even the latest late nights are fun to be lived! Cannot wait to get more action… see you guys around!

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Day 1 – BandBazi/Q Theatre Productions – Mindwalking

Post by Philipa Vafadari, Thursday 17th June, 2010

We arrived late last night and havn’t really recovered from the journey but are already straight in with a meeting at The British Council offices today – they gave us the travel, visas and accommodation money through their Connections Through Culture fund.  John (Binnie), Tanika (Gupta) and Q(uasar Padamsee) are interviewing potential actors for the role of the Father in the piece and I have snuck away to write this on one of the BC computers as my internet connection isn’t working at the hotel. 

We are meeting 6 older actors today, all but one of whom are Parsee.  So far they have been fascinating to talk to about their lives and experiences.  It is a bit different here to England though, acting in the theatre is often on a semi-professional basis and, because it is very poorly paid most people have other professions.  So far we have met a Business consultant and an airline pilot!  Bollywood, of course, pays really well…  I say it is different, but how many actors in the UK can say that acting is their full-time job?

3 of the actors we meet today will be invited to workshop with us over three days at the weekend.  It’s a packed schedule but we want to make the most of our time here. 

Tonight is dinner hosted by Q’s mother Dolly Thakore.  There will be about 15 guests – all either writers, poets, actors or directors.  It is going to be a fascinating trip.

Tomorrow are meetings with two Parsee newspapers to tell them about the project so that they are on board for the previews and reviews if it tours India in autumn 2011. Also a meeting with the CEO of the National Centre of Performing Arts, Khusrow Suntook about taking the show.

Q has promised us a whistlestop siteseeing tour of the City.  It’s invaluable having him as our host and guide. 

Keep you posted…Philippa

Here is a vidoe of the Work-in-progress at the Alchemy Festival at Sounthbank Centre in April 2010 as part of the Connections through Culture programme.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmFqXzolW94]

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