The Macbeth Project

Thu 9th – Sun 12th August 2012

reviews

Emma Yandle

at 08:23 on 10th Aug 2012

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To critically attack the script of 'The Macbeth Project' is a bit like attacking the back of a cereal packet for not having a clear and thought-provoking narrative structure: it’s not meant to. Herein, lies the problem. 'The Macbeth Project' was one of the most inane and condescending scripts for teenagers that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Filled with the sort of dialogue only adults write for children: the dog ate my homework, I was up late at a sleepover, the worst thing in my life is studying a Shakespeare play... it was smarmy and condescending to its competent young cast.

The plot was a treat. Basically if you disappoint your teacher they’ll turn to witchcraft to control you and you’re liable to live out a very loose version of 'Macbeth', which you handily already have the cast names for. Cue a High School Musical-esque adaptation of the play, which got all very 'Lord of the Flies' when a sleepover led to the murder of schoolmate Duncan. Then you realise the characters exist on so many different levels and their locations change so frequently without warning that there’s not much point trying to keep up with what’s going on. Perform a terrible rendering of a Shakespearean murder and you’re liable to push your teacher into madness and she may or may not fall in love with her pupil (dressed as William Shakespeare, obviously) and then think she’s Lady Macbeth. Pull back the big reveal that this is all a lesson within a lesson and it was probably all a dream.

My favourite line was the inspiring ‘reduce your expectations and your disappointment goes’, a sound message to the school cast. I can’t deny that I laughed every now and again, but certainly not for the right reasons. In musicals of a certain kind you expect over-the-top sweet moments with emotional music, but not a number where a school girl pledges to always be there for her now mad teacher.

The good thing about 'The Macbeth Project' was that the teenage cast from Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools contained a surprising number of really good singers. The female soloists stood out with some beautiful vocals from Christina McNeill, Victoria Kerr, Lara Kidd and Rebecca Scott. Musical Director Jason Orringe trained the cast very well in harmonies and I was surprised by the competence with which the whole cast executed the many musical numbers. Whilst it was sometimes hard to hear the words of the chorus, this is the nature of communicating largely through song and I’m happy to blame the score for that.

The resounding impression left by the production was why on earth did they pick it? With their amazing theatre, talented cast and band they could have put on a very strong performance of pretty much anything else.

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James Fennemore

at 09:03 on 10th Aug 2012

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The pupils of Stewart’s Melville School have been inexcusably let down by their teachers. They ought to have been given a better opportunity than performing ‘The Macbeth Project’, which is a musical so relentlessly terrible that it fails to show off the pupils at anyway near their fullest potential.

‘The Macbeth Project’, written by Chris Duffy and composed by Jason Orringe, attempts to depict a group of schoolchildren charged with putting on a production of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The play supposedly diffuses into their own rehearsals, as the characters slide between the boundary of performance and reality. Although whether that’s actually the case is anyone’s guess. It’s one of the most incoherent pieces of writing I’ve ever had to sit through. A parent behind me muttered something about absurdism in explanation to his companion, but Ionesco this isn’t.

What makes things even worse, though, is the utter banality and patronising nature of the script and lyrics. With songs like ‘Sleepover Blues’, Duffy’s portrayal of the toils and difficulties of school-age life obstinately sticks to every cliché it can muster. It renders ‘Macbeth’ to an entity valueless but for its plot.

I would usually like to be able to review the production, rather than focusing on just the play itself, but the nature of this piece renders the better aspects of the company’s work empty and purposeless. Although some of the singing is occasionally tuneful, particularly that of Emily Copas, the lyrics are so trite that none of the young cast are really able to perform. The acting is understandably underwhelming, through no fault of the performers whatsoever. There’s only so far they can take a bad script. The money that has clearly gone into the set, lighting, and even pyrotechnics of the production makes for a pleasing aesthetic, but would have been so much better utilised on a more worthwhile project.

These young performers should not have been made to perform a production suitable only for a cast half their age. Stewart’s Melville School ought to put its considerable resources to better use, for the sake of the enjoyment of its audiences and, more importantly, for the sake of the artistic development of its pupils.

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