Left – Christian Bagin, John Forman, Fiona Roake and Aurora Kurth. Photo – Jeff Busby
Performing a tragedy like the Scottish Play at a comedy festival seems a bit an unusual choice but Shakespeare was one of the best comic writers of all time, so why not? This adaption, carefully called MacDeth, is aimed at 8-13 year olds, so purposefully keeps the murderous play light.
After all, Shakespeare, actors and comedians all use comic interludes to relieve tension – and know that you need to build tension to get the best comic relief – aka laughs – so it makes sense.
In MacDeth the players of the Company 13 have simplified Shakespeare’s epic play, both to modernise it but also to make it more suited to schoolchildren. Some 21st Century references add to the jokes and relevance.
With a delicate touch and clear affection, they have cleverly crafted a piece that builds on the framework of one couple’s gradual self destruction through their hunger for power while introducing some minor adaptations that help explain the more complex concepts behind human motivation.
All the best bits of glorious prose remain, and it’s lovely to be reminded of how many modern phrases originate from his work. Some more complex sections are ‘translated’ within the dialogue to clarify the meaning, while others are highlighted with playful overacting and physical comedy. The additional love scenes between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are so fun you wonder why they weren’t in the original, and the feast scenes are wonderfully silly.
A cast of only four manages to fill all the necessary characters, and skillfully achieves this with only sheets and false teeth for costumes and the simplest of sets and props. The lighting, too, adds volumes with single spotlights, while scenic atmosphere is enhanced with four basic musical instruments – which each cast member seems equally at home with.
It’s a super-slick, often hilarious romp of a tragedy – King Duncan is portrayed as a bit of bumbling idiot and his murder is made less traumatic by using spray-foam blood – yet MacDeth still manages to slow down and give pause to the more serious sections that deserve consideration.
For adults who haven’t seen a Shakespeare play since leaving school this is an ideal opportunity to take the kids during the school holidays – or even just go along alone; it’s a guaranteed laugh and a great yarn that’s still as relevant today as it was 500 years ago.
Company 13 presents
by Shakespeare/Company 13
Director James Pratt
Venue: The Coopers Malthouse Mini Merlyn | 113 Sturt Street, South Melbourne VIC
Dates: 6 – 19 April 2019
Tickets: $15 – $25