SHAKESPEARE knew a lot about madness.

Whether it was the pain of tragedy with Lear, the madness of the heart in Romeo and Juliet or, as in the case of Twelfth Night, the self-created silliness of manmade mayhem.

There is certainly plenty of the latter with Filter’s creation of Twelfth Night which opened to the sound of an audience gasping for breath at Winchester’s Theatre Royal last night.

Gasping at the sheer, mad comic genius of it all.

In many ways Twelfth Night relies on several Shakespearian comic staples: mistaken identity, misplaced love, misread love letters, drunken antics and, naturally, cross-dressing.

But even when first created, the Bard knew he was dealing here with a time when madness took on a whole new meaning. Twelfth Night was traditionally a day when the servants took control, pranks and merry japes were the order, and Fool was master of the house.

Filter’s musical, chaotic, creative take on Shakespeare’s take on all that is to move the madness along.

Whether it is involving the audience in a game of Velcro-hat head ball, or a conga across the stage, or even taking delivery of a fast-food party bonanza, not to mention the gold underpants and bright-yellowsocks rock routine that shook the stage, it is madness at its most beautiful.

Musically the cast are superb, their talent almost submerged by the frenetic pace and very clever use of instruments and audio to create both haunting and hilarious effects.

The audience loved it, especially the crowd of schoolage youngsters who will forever, I suspect, think of old Bill Shakespeare as a bit of a clever bloke.

Twelfth Night runs until Saturday, March 8. Click here for tickets>>