Macbeth

Tue 7th – Fri 10th August 2012

reviews

Lettice Franklin

at 09:19 on 9th Aug 2012

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If you search ‘Macbeth’ on the Fringe Box Office website you will be inundated with choices - with theatre company after theatre company exploiting the play’s unquestionable power, and appropriate location. However, the Little Shakespeare Theatre School’s production, I suspect, differs from all the others. This is clear from the very beginning: the play starts with a troop of splendidly be-kilted actors filing onto the stage. Not one of them is older than fifteen and several are as young as eight (the actors were keen to emphasise how nearly nine they are after the show).

Their tartan recalls not only their Scottish heritage but also a punk attitude that allows them to play with this classic play. The procession is soundtracked by a ballsy rock and roll song. In keeping with the excitement and energy of the young cast, the production continues to be playful and bold. The ‘sound and the fury’ of this Macbeth is at one point provided by the Pink Panther soundtrack. Touches like this smooth the divide between the child actors and the serious, troubled play.

It is a masterly move to make the Weird Sisters closer to fairies than witches - the female actors prance, skip, giggle, holding dolls, and fighting over their cauldron. The ease with which “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” becomes a glorified game of Ring-a-ring-a-rosie is startling and impressive. The young witches, Kate McKay, Chloe Briggs, and Kathryn Iredane, are enchanting, and in their apparent sweetness are even able to be eerie, communicating a sense of darkness not quite concealed by their flowers and ruffles.

The staging of the play deserves praise. This focuses on one long table, at which the male actors sit for most of the play. Resembling Da Vinci’s Last Supper, and providing a comparable sense of suspense, this permanent audience evokes the claustrophobia of the Scottish court and gives the play something close to a Greek tragic chorus. The boys respond to events in the play by covering their eyes, falling asleep, urging “Fight, fight, fight!”, tapping their fingers, or knocking loudly. They create soundscapes - an effect more sophisticated than those you would expect to find in a children’s play.

Acting was, on the whole, impressive given the performers’ age. Lawrence Bissell was a show-stealing drunken porter. Indeed, in every scene he entered he spoke with aplomb, owned the stage, and even bagpiped as if it came as easily to him as breathing - a star in the making. Every child seemed to understand what they were saying, filling their lines with meaning and projecting their voices impressively. To understand Shakespeare’s writing when only seven years old is no mean feat, let alone perform it well at the Fringe.

There are inevitably points where youth becomes an obstacle. Watching Macduff (Timon van Rensburgh) mourn the death of his children - one of the most powerful moments in Shakespeare’s play - it is hard not to remember that this particular Macduff is not much older than one of those “pretty chickens”. The parents in the audience would however understand Macduff’s depth of paternal love, being, one presumes, overflowing with pride in their own children - and rightfully so.

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April Elisabeth Pierce

at 11:02 on 9th Aug 2012

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With Gary Moore’s rock tune “Over the Hills” blasting in the speakers, a stoic-looking group of young actors introduced The Little Shakespeare Theatre School’s “Macbeth” to a small audience in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Suddenly, a spritely flock of girls burst onto the scene, stirring up a royal ruckus in proper chaotic form. To paraphrase another popular Shakespeare play: though these actors were but little, they were certainly fierce. Early astonishments were a happy taste of things to come; this atmospheric and spirited rendition of “Macbeth” offered more than a few pleasant surprises.

While Macbeth himself (Rory Doherty) was somewhat understated, his performance was bolstered by auxiliary actors. Doherty warmed up over the course of the play, delivering a powerful fight scene and several passionate monologues in the final scenes. Of the other would-be stars in the play’s cosmos, Ross (Lawrence Bissell) stood out by a mile. His enthusiasm and emotional range were indications of a skill set far beyond his years. Lady Macbeth (Rowan McFarlen) is convincing, especially when she is accompanied by her mischievous witches (Kate McKay, Chloe, Briggs, Katheryn Iredale et al).

Unique director’s touches, from the use of music boxes and deliberate spotlighting, to the rhythmic tapping of a high table for suspense, strengthened interest in the individual scenes. Music featured prominently throughout the performance. Modern twists provided relief and humor in the midst of the darker moments (The Pink Panther theme song, for instance, was met with immediate laughter). Bagpipes were brought in to usher the actors off stage after final bows, and Scottish themed costumes set the play in its local context.

Macbeth poses a challenge, even for experienced actors. The fact that these 7-15 year olds were able to do it justice -- lending the story an energetic dynamism all their own -- is commendable. Though there were moments of fumbling and mumbling, mistakes were rendered charming rather than catastrophic, and the audience went away enlivened and ready for a long day of theatre.

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