Hen & Chickens Theatre
Reviewed – 12th December 2017
“there was some reliance on background tomfoolery, which occasionally distracted from the plot”
Approaching one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays of all time is in itself a daunting prospect, but Red Squash Theatre have gone the extra mile to make their lives difficult; three actors take one hour to perform Macbeth and make it funny. The result is Macbeeth, a knowingly daft and irreverent take on a plot of witchcraft, betrayal and murder.
Despite the utter silliness, there are very few deviations from the original text, although, by necessity, it is highly and effectively condensed. The limitations of this challenge mode edition of a classic are tackled effectively and get a lot of the laughs; the actors have good fun with the constraints of playing multiple characters and lean on the fourth wall with a cordial grin. The gags are mostly hits and the performers, particularly Rory Fairbairn (who is credited to fourteen roles in this one production), are likeable and welcome the audience into their good-natured mayhem.
Unfortunately, the humour rarely derives from the text itself, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was watching a performance of the original tragedy with some gags thrown in. While the best jokes poked fun at the original play’s most well known soliloquies, many more were incidental and failed to feel at home against the original text; there was some reliance on background tomfoolery, which occasionally distracted from the plot, while the few sections that were played mostly straight felt out of place with them absent.
Nevertheless, Macbeeth responds to the core demands of the original play excellently and this was one of its delights. The murder of Duncan and the appearance of Banquo’s ghost in particular are handled in surprising and effective ways. Props are simple but used well and resonate with Red Squash Theatre’s minimalist approach, although at times the cardboard crowns and plastic daggers can run the risk of being naff.
Macbeeth is a breathless and gleefully childish romp that refuses to take Shakespeare too seriously. Its silliness, while throwaway, is often genuinely very funny, and the ambitious project of condensing five acts of Macbeth, without losing content, is realised successfully. However, Macbeeth suffers from the unfortunate, but predictable, consequence of trying to make a tragedy into a comedy with few editions to the original text; it doesn’t quite feel like one thing but doesn’t feel like the other, either.
Reviewed by Matthew Wild
Photography courtesy Red Squash Theatre
is at the Hen & Chickens Theatre until 16th December