EFR - Reviews of MacBeth Unsexed!

MacBeth Unsexed!

Tue 7th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Claire Dalling

at 09:35 on 8th Aug 2012

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For a start, Venus Flytrap’s ‘Macbeth Unsexed’ had next to no distinguishable plot, Shakespearian or otherwise. The cast was made up of six teenage girls, who lead the small audience through a haunting and unrelated set of female monologues, punctuated by extracts from Lady Macbeth and the odd song from a Broadway musical. Confused? I was.

However, I am in absolutely no doubt about the incredible talent of these young performers. Passion and energy oozed out of their every pore, and the unrelenting action gave neither cast nor audience a chance to relax or digest. In some ways, this made the troublesome text even more frustrating. I so wanted to truly understand the deep underlying exploration of the female condition; to share in the distressing truths about which the cast were so fanatical. Especially impressive was the girls’ diction: there was not a single unclear word throughout, yet the elocutionary efforts seemed effortless. Their individual monologues, depicting women at different stages of life, were tackled with chilling conviction. What is more, the staggering maturity emanating from the young company gave me the distinct impression that, rather worryingly, they understood every word. The changes between speech and song were also seamless. Indeed, there was not a single moment of performance time wasted, which is partly what made the play so disturbing and intense. But between the chanting, blood drinking and recounting of murders, I got a wee bit lost.

As the lady sitting behind me announced loudly, and undoubtedly for my benefit, the cast devised ‘Macbeth Unsexed’ themselves, with little adult intervention. This both impresses and distresses me, as so much of the action is utterly, utterly unsettling. But it is clear that these young actresses have talent beyond their years, and very bright futures ahead of them.

So, while it was perhaps not an enjoyable experience, ‘Macbeth Unsexed’ was an experience nonetheless. An experience that I would also recommend, if only so that someone can explain it to me afterwards.

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Daniel Malcolm

at 10:26 on 8th Aug 2012

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The lady-killers of St. Mary's Calne were certainly "top-full of direst cruelty". Their wild eyes and delirious laughter curdled my blood to cream. But at times their sadistic madness was as incoherent as it was menacing.

'Macbeth Unsexed' is an emotional freeze-frame, which sustained the intensity and murderous mania of Lady Macbeth's "Unsex me here" scene for almost an hour. After a rather disturbing exploration of female psychology - which sets murder up as an act of passionate self-assertion - the blood-letting begins, and knows no moderation.

The killings are as indiscriminate as the play's references: the sporadic quoting of Macbeth and the finale to Medea makes some sense, although at times were grafted in rather inorganically. But unravelling the significance of songs from Chicago and Carousel was beyond me. Beautifully sung as it was, what was "When I Marry Mister Snow" doing sandwiched between murders? The incongruity was disturbing, but deeper meaning was difficult to fathom.

The only logic to the murders seems ultimately to be a maniac lust for blood coupled with a callous disregard for life ('death is part of the process'). There is a streak of particularly sadistic cruelty reserved for husbands. A housewife in rebellion against the stereotype of her dinner-cooking existence strangles one poor chap over his supper. But if the play does have a feminist axe to grind, then it's a very blunt one. Unsexed, the women become monsters rather than men. And although some of their murderous frustration is directed at men, and the play is at times addressed to men ("we're everywhere, we're in your beds"), children and women don't escape the grizzly violence. Milk is turned to gall indeed for one poor mite, whose mother silences his wailing by dashing him to death.

There is none of the remorse of Macbeth to follow - no "out damn spot" recantation. In fact what we witness are not the murders themselves, but re-enactments that are all the more sadistic in their remorseless retelling. The details of the murders are disturbingly imaginative - and more than just macabre. Victims are reduced to meat and murders to butchery - quite literally - as chickens are dismembered on stage. Highly effective throughout was this chorus of action (often synchronised) reinforcing the central story-telling, and magnified the horror of each gory tale.

As a rather warped study in psychopathic murder, the play was an emotional blitzkrieg. I would have no hesitation sectioning the whole of the cast. That is to their credit - they were after all already dressed for the asylum. But my urge to commit the playwright to the madhouse reflects less well on a production that was ultimately little more than shocking.

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