Macbeth (I'm not afraid to name it; there's nothing vaguely Scottish about this production) is a play that most everyone encounters at some point in their lives. If they don't hit you with it at age 11, they'll get you at 14 or 16. How refreshing, then, to see a group of youngsters who look to be around the latter age getting to grips with Shakespeare's well-known text and attempting to give it a facelift of sorts.Scottish castles are nowhere to be seen here, instead making way for grotty gangland cribs and hangouts. Gone are the courtly settings and anything remotely fine as the play begins with a writhing figure with a pig's head on stage, tied to a chair. An unruly mob charges on to assault the poor swine (a mask, it transpires) to deafening music and strobe lighting. We see branded on them all a dagger tattoo, a clever incorporation of the motif into their gang culture. The grumpy, 21-year-old pensioner in me wanted to throw something at those pesky kids and tell them to turn it down as my ears were assaulted by the raucous noise of regurgitated, reconstituted 'dirty underground beatz', but it luckily wasn't used too often.While I found that the setting of the play amidst a gang highlighted interesting questions of loyalty in the play, the actual lines didn't always quite fit the scenario; some more careful pruning might have been employed. I'm also afraid that rather too much time was spent on costume and set design and not long enough spent on rehearsing the actual acting. It was a bit like watching the River Island catalogue parading across the stage.There were some very well-executed scenes, the appearance of Banquo's ghost at the banquet being a prime example. Lady Macbeth, poor hand-washing dagger scene aside, showed flashes of the real woman behind the hard-nosed exterior. The abandoning of end-stopped lines was done fairly well, with minimal hindrance to our understanding, and there was a brilliantly choreographed fight scene between Macbeth and Macduff that really impressed me after seeing so many fights where characters launch blows metres wide.The cyclical nature of corruption is nicely brought out as a clever finish as Macduff, power newly seized, is singled out by the Sisters as the next to fall from grace. Some of the risks in this production do work, but some are beyond the boundaries of taste (such as showing the brutal dismemberment of the Macduffs with sledgehammers by men in clown masks).I'd recommend this play to teens at the Fringe – not condescendingly, but because there is a good energy about the piece and much life has been breathed into a faithful retelling of the plot.

Reviews by Fen Greatley

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The Blurb

‘It will have blood they say...’ A powerful, compelling interpretation. An innovative and modern take on the bloody rise and ultimate failure of the doomed Macbeth. This is one to see for first timers and purists alike.

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