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Edinburgh Fringe 2015


Youth Music Theatre UK with the Lyric Theatre Belfast

Genre: Classical and Shakespeare, Musical Theatre

Venue: New Town Theatre


Low Down

Hecate and her troupe of witches manipulate and dominate in this dark, harrowing and discordant musical take on the Scottish Play.


Crush barriers and a bank of faceless video screens with surveillance images flickering in the eerie blackness dominate the stage, with the cast seemingly caged and awaiting the arrival of their audience in the cavernous Majestic suite of the New Town Theatre. Pulsating, discordant, resonant music beats in the background, rising to a crescendo as witches, beggars, peasants and every conceivable type of low-life explodes on to the stage in a fury of tightly choreographed movement, mixing modern dance with some impressive acrobatics and lifts. And that’s just the opening witches’ scene, complete with a bit of surtitled text for the few people on the planet who don’t know Shakespeare’s text off pat.

The focus on the zombie-like witches and the particularly sinister Hecate (superbly enacted, there’s a star in the making here) provides a neat inversion of Macbeth’s customary male dominance which was reinforced by a spell-binding performance from Molly Coffey as Lady Macbeth.

And composer Garth McConaghie’s score is a wonderfully discordant, dissonant soundscape, never intrusive when acting as background filler yet powerful and dominant when used in lieu of some of the Scottish Play’s best-known soliloquies. Stuart Harvey’s direction draws the best from this universally talented cast, whether it be in terms of acting, singing or the physical theatre which was of the highest order.

Singing was excellent throughout, both in terms of solos and ensemble performances. The cast provided additional instrumentation to supplement the core of piano and some extremely expressive percussion, which itself seemed to supply every emotion from anger through to thunder and beyond.

The throat mikes caused a bit of sound imbalance, especially where dialogue was taking place between someone with a mike and someone without and the surtitles seemed increasingly superfluous as the plot wound its way towards its dark, harrowing denouement. But these are mere pieces of grit in an oyster of a production. A strong, confident and well-drilled cast had the drive and energy to deliver a performance that’s worth going a long way to see. If this troupe represents the future of UK musical theatre, then we’re in for some good stuff in the years to come.