Edinburgh Fringe 2014
A bubbling, boiling musical adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s darker tragedies, with a lighter touch that makes it accessible and suitable for both young and old alike.
With 2014 being the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, this year’s Fringe is playing host to an eclectic mix of the original and the adapted from the Bard’s writings. And the capacious Spiegeltent (at its new home in St Andrew’s Square) provides just the right atmosphere for Captivate Drama’s adaptation of Macbeth, Brave Macbeth – The Musical, which, whilst pointed firmly in the direction of the younger generation, is sufficiently well-laced with irony and pastiche to prove attractive to audiences of more mature years..
If you don’t know the plot, don’t worry. The cast set it out very neatly from start to finish with clever use of narration and with the songs helping to illustrate the deeper parts of the original text as well as weave the plot. There’s plenty of emphasis on the blood and the gore to get the kids excited (and occasionally just a little scared) but plenty of comic asides to lighten the mood. Go with the flow and you’ll be fine.
We get off to a dark and sombre start with the three witches plotting and scheming and foretelling Macbeth’s future. If the audience wasn’t gripped by this, then they certainly were by time the eponymous bad guy had burst forth from the back of the auditorium, preening and admiring himself as he learned what was in store for him. Similar dramatic entrances kept the audience on their toes and allowed the cast to exploit every inch of the space available. This kept the show up to the boil, much like the witches’ cauldron. The absence of a set actually added to the atmosphere and creative use of props was evident throughout, no more so in the scenes where Banquo appeared as a ghost and the Macduff family was brutally butchered.
This was a strong performance from a well-drilled cast, with bad guys and good guys easy for the audience to spot. Macbeth’s portrayal as a narcissistic cissy was beautifully complemented by Lady Macbeth’s strident, domineering, Machiavellian tones – a true ogre. Macduff, the good guy, was a young hunk (and knew it, for his opening line was “Sorry girls, I’m spoken for”) and his wife a hopeless melodramatic. Duncan was a neat pastiche of a vain, faltering monarch clinging to his crown. And Malcolm was shown as a wuss, complete with his teddy. These believable characterisations (or caricatures if you prefer) were augmented by the cast’s acute sense of timing and their ability to wring every ounce of irony, melodrama and pastiche out of the well-crafted script. This contained enough original text to please a purist (even if Lady Macbeth kept cutting off her husband’s attempt to deliver a soliloquy) and had sufficient narrative and pointers to keep the younger audience members on track with the plot.
The original and very supportive score in the main played to the vocal range of each cast member, although a musical purist might have noted Macbeth struggling at the lower end of his solo number. Some of the balance between singer and song track would benefit from a bit of adjustment as lyrics, which were a clever mix of original Shakespearian text and comedic adaptation, were occasionally lost.
This is a production with a lot to recommend it, offering an accessible and amusing introduction to what is really quite a dark tragedy. Well worth getting out of bed for.