Q & A with Filter Co-Artistic Director Ollie Dimsdale

As we prepare to welcome back the anarchic Filter Theatre Company with another radical interpretation of a Shakespearean classic, we thought it was the perfect time to delve into the 'heat-oppressed' brain of Ollie Dimsdale. Ollie, Filter's Co-Artistic Director, talks about their unique approach to Shakespeare with their production of Macbeth

Filter impressed Citizens Theatre's audiences in 2014 with their unique take on Twelfth Night

Filter's work always has a very distinctive identity (I have very fond memories of your Twelfth Night, for one). How would you describe the company's style and ethos? What things motivate you, in terms of e.g. what you love about theatre and what thoughts and emotions you like to awaken in your audiences?

Filter’s ethos is very much to do with collaboration. We often work with regular Filter collaborators with whom we have developed an artistic shorthand that we hope bears fruit for each show we stage. The only thing we ever know for sure with every Filter project is that we approach it with a text, and a strong musical angle - compositionally and in terms of sound design. Inspiration for most creative decisions comes from the collaborators in rehearsal room, rather than what we try to artistically engineer before the rehearsal process. In our classic text shows we like to allow ourselves the freedom to explore, play and innovate in an attempt to honour a playwright’s original intentions, as well as making shows that are scrupulously twenty-first century in their own right. How our shows are received by audiences isn’t something that we can control so we simply try to create the kind of work that we would like to watch ourselves.

Filter's Macbeth in rehearsals

Without giving too much away, what will you be bringing to Macbeth? The play is incredibly powerful in its own right... can any radical take (and I assume yours is a little radical...?) on it add anything?

As you say, Macbeth is an incredibly powerful play and not one that we can necessarily add anything to. The only thing we’ve promised ourselves while rehearsing the production is to hold onto the idea of making a Macbeth that is playful and funny, as well as engaging with the dark, psychological thriller that Shakespeare has left us with. With a stage aesthetic of sound design apparatus, we’re looking at how character and audience can be drawn inexorably into the epicentre of the ‘heat-oppressed brain’. Assisted by some new and innovative sound technology, courtesy of Filter artistic associate, composer Tom Haines, we’re looking into ways of portraying just how profoundly psychologically disturbing Shakespeare’s text can be.

Macbeth production shot c. Toby Farrow

Directors sometimes take on a classic because they believe there's a side of the play that's not been given enough attention, in their view, or an aspect of it that they'd like to highlight. Is that the case for you with Macbeth? Or is it just a cracking play that you all wanted to stage?

We’ve tackled some of his best comedies - Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream - so the next step was to look at one of his tragedies. Macbeth seemed like the best choice for Filter. If there’s a particular area we are looking at it’s how we can elucidate through sound just how darkly psychological Macbeth can be. The multitudinous sonic references in the text are inspiring the show at the moment.

Music plays a key role in Filter's production of Macbeth. C. Toby Farrow

Have you seen Macbeth done well and/or badly... and if so, why in each case?

I saw a production at the Edinburgh Festival a long time ago that was played out by three actors (one man, two women) and I was struck by how in the simplicity of their staging and delivery of Shakespeare’s language, I was transported in my imagination to places that may have been muddied by a fuller production. I’ve also seen well-funded, more traditional dress productions that have been unable to break out of the stylistic or period straight-jacket that they have made for themselves. We’re more interested in how we approach the heart of Shakespeare’s plays rather than getting too side-tracked by historical or textual details. It’s a delicate balancing act between honouring a playwright’s original intentions and making something that resonates deeply with you as a contemporary theatre-maker.

Filter's Macbeth 
20 - 31 Jan