FRINGE REVIEW – Just Macbeth, Assembly George Street

*****

7 – 29 Aug (not 10, 17), 1145 (1315) @ Assembly George Street

By Danielle Farrow

Just Macbeth offers family fun with the famous Thane who is prepared – with a little urging on from his wife – to commit a fair few murders to gain and retain the crown of Scotland. Australian company Bell Shakespeare transforms this, possibly Shakespeare
’s most popular tragedy, into a fairly fast-paced and entertaining comedy. Energetic and very watchable actors portray school children working on a project to understand the Bard’s play and its meaning for them in modern times and at the age of twelve.

 
The project frame works very well and informs about the Scottish play, soliloquies and historical performance intelligently and hilariously. The relationships between the three main characters reflect relations in the play, and when they become their counterparts, fine use is made of simple screen projection and shadow-play, accompanied by a lot of skilfully handled props and physical comedy. Shakespeare’s dialogue is worked in clearly and explained inventively, but along the way the intelligent innovation which pleased adults as well as kids loses out to silliness that kept neither age group engrossed. The ending of the play redeemed itself in ingenuity and engagement, however, and the restlessness of audience members calmed.
 
Just Macbeth is an entertaining introduction to the Scottish play (though leaves the question, why call it ‘Just Macbeth’ when it isn‘t?). Some recorded sounds and beatbox-related music became irritating and did not seem to sit comfortably with the actors, but lighting and set served the story very effectively. There is a good mix of Shakespeare and silliness for the most part, and – especially important – there was at least one child discussing Lady Macbeth afterwards. Result!

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