(The Reel) Macbeth

If this production is anything to go by (The Reel) Macbeth is by no means a tragedy; instead it’s a demonic kilt-adorned joke. There is little tragedy in this fast running farcical production. Don’t go to this Macbeth with hopes of trauma and blood, you will find none. You will find cheap kilts and a whole lot of highland dancing. Sadly despite its best efforts this show teeters awkwardly between comedy and tragedy.

This production is ridiculous, but it’s also unique. I can at least guarantee you’ll never see a Macbeth quite like this one.

The ‘full Scottish glory’ that the play seeks to revitalise appears in a mass of rapid fire clichés, a whole new world of caricatures. Macbeth’s fanfare is laughable, a repeated sound bite of traditional Scottish music that plagues the entire production, so upbeat it kills any hint of severity in its wake. In this play Macduff beats Macbeth to death with a teddy bear, the witches can’t talk without unleashing a strange satanic hybrid of Caelih onto their friends and every character appears bound to skip on and off stage adorned in the contents of a cheap Edinburgh souvenir shop. At times the excess seems to border on offensive. The conflicting desires of director Lucy Cuthbertson to reinvent Shakespeare’s tragedy as comedy while simultaneously apparently reviving its Scottish heritage meet somewhere in the middle and it’s a cringe worthy collision.

However amidst the confusion of this vision the young cast still manage to find moments to shine. The witches, played with great panache by Dennese Manyasi, Moses Ward and Conor Highnell, captivate from the start and not merely because of their dance moves. Ciaron Farrell’s Macbeth holds one of the more convincing Scottish accents of the production and is funny, drawing new strands from ancient speeches, despite severe cutting.

Moments of tenderness too, are heightened amidst the chaos: Oliver Marlowe as MacDuff in particular manages to capture the pain of loss. Isatou Jagne as Lady Macbeth maintains a severity during the infamous ‘out damned spot’ speech as the witches appear to play a game with her increasingly fragile body, passing her from one witch to the next in a warped dance, further establishing their central role in this production as a reeling force, pulling all the strings.

The strongest moments of this production are those in which the cast come together; the brief moments of unison are deeply effective. Most notably the banquet scene with Banquo’s ghost becomes a ghostly dance in which Macbeth is forced again and again not merely to see the results of his actions but to dance with them too.

This production is ridiculous, but it’s also unique. I can at least guarantee you’ll never see a Macbeth quite like this one.

Reviews by Thea Hawlin

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★★★
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Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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★★★★
Blackwell's Bookshop

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Following successful runs at Greenwich Theatre and at the opening of the Michael Edwards Studio at the historic Cutty Sark, Kidbrooke bring their latest hit production to Edinburgh. This choreographed adaptation is full of humour, energy and innovation from the moment the three witches leap into action. A lively interpretation takes the Scottish play back to its geographical roots and presents the story (told at a rattling pace) of Macbeth’s murderous activities through the Scottish reel, Highland dancing and physical theatre, and promises to engage audiences like no other. Fringe Report Best Play 2008 for Hotel World.