Twelfth Night comes to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre in a production which strips away the pomp and the ceremony.
Adapter and founder of Flute Theatre Kelly Hunter is promising a Shakespeare with the freedom to focus in on what she feels important.
“You don’t have to deliver absolutely every single word.”
Shakespeare himself re-authored tales which went back centuries; Kelly sees herself as doing exactly the same with a production which she presents as a continuation of her own production of Hamlet.
Performances will be in the Minerva from January 15-26, running straight through in an hour and a half with no interval.
In Kelly’s version, Viola is saved from drowning with a bucket of freezing water and welcomed into Illyria by a mysterious clown who leads us all on a melodious and dreamlike odyssey.
With nothing but instruments, costumes and props that may have been washed up on a beach, the cast of seven actors are swung between characters, between actor and musician, and between love and madness in a whirligig of a play…
“I started the company five years ago,” Kelly says. “The intention was to offer Shakespeare to people with no access to the arts or to audiences that don’t normally go to Shakespeare.
“But really there are two strands to what we do. I have been working for the last two years with people with autism or special needs, creating work using Shakespeare to allow them to express themselves more.
“As part of our residency in Chichester, we are doing performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the mornings for people on the autistic spectrum, and then in the evenings we are doing Twelfth Night with exactly the same cast. They are all first-class accomplished musicians. The feel of Twelfth Night will be that you are going to a Shakespeare play without a lot of the pomp and ceremony and star-casting that you get.”
The idea is to dispense with the things that stand in the way: “The idea is to present the story in a way that is relatable, that it is about young people falling in love for the first time, about making mistakes, people getting bullied – things that people can understand.
“I am very interested in the musicality of the play. What also interested me is the relationship between Twelfth Night and Hamlet. Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night and Hamlet in the same year. I have been doing a production of Hamlet for the past five or six years, and I really needed to pull myself, as a creative, out of the world of Hamlet. I was very interested in the grief and trauma that Ophelia is suffering… and by the idea that she is saved in the next play by Viola who is saved from drowning. It is as if Ophelia’s journey carries on and she has a different story and she is saved. We are making it like a kind of continuation.”
From the world of Hamlet, Kelly wanted to go into a world where love and music and joy are possible…
“There is a very vibrant Shakespeare scene outside the UK and there are lots of Shakespeare festivals that are very popular. We toured Hamlet all over Europe, and what is interesting is that where English is not the first language, there is more of an expectation for experimentation and more flexibility. It can be very avant-garde, which is good. You don’t need the whole play. You don’t need every messenger. You don’t need every trumpet. You don’t need every word that was written. People can deviate, but there are different kinds of deviation. People in this country are experimental with the casting, but not necessarily with how much you edit or cut into the play. Casting is important, but what I am asking is what I do I need to do to get to the essence for the 21st century.”