By Danielle Farrow
Klahr Thorsen, in her solo show ‘Screw Your Courage! (or The Bloody Crown!)’, tells of a life focused on an obsession with playing Lady Macbeth, with the help of occasional Scottish music, a table with bottles (whisky and water) and a chair. Thorsen also links ‘curse’ moments of her journey with Shakespeare’s witches through some intriguing ritual gestures. Apparently ‘loosely’ autobiographical, Thorsen offers a nice line in irony, some clever lines of her own and snatches of Shakespeare’s famous sleepwalking character, known for egging her husband on to murder before going mad. There are some fine observances of performance / production folk, and the journey brings the actress from her native US state, through various attempts at getting Lady M ‘right’ (including at The Globe in London), to Scotland’s Cawdor and Edinburgh.
Connecting elements of the stage actress’ life with Lady Macbeth are mental health issues tied up with the narrator’s mother, including the spectre of suicide. These provide poignant moments within the piece, alongside the artistic struggles presented with humour. However, it is noticeable that Thorsen is most connected, alive and in the moment during some of her Lady Macbeth sections, where lines – very familiar to many, including this reviewer – flare into fresh life, deeply rooted and understood. This is excellent acting, and if this could permeate the narration, would create a fascinating show. However, Thorsen is not engaged with her full physical potential (mostly working with her upper body), and while she speaks directly to her audience – always preferable to gazing into some strange disconnected distance – there is a guard in place between Thorsen and the actress we see speaking to us, one which only melts in the moments of true connection with Shakespeare’s character. If the mental health aspect is a part of Thorsen’s life, she would not be the first to find that acting is where she comes alive, dealing with such a legacy in a way which is not so available in ‘real life’ and which may actually help to retain sanity. Working autobiographically, however loosely, may have impeded this release, and in fact – in a different context – the actress mentions finding it hard to trust others: there is some shielding here which holds Thorsen back from truly revealing herself to us as she tells her story. On more of a detail niggle, while the actress’ father is entertainingly depicted, the young girl, who seems to have only just heard about the play, replies pronouncing ‘Macbeth’ in normal fashion, rather than in her father’s particular manner, which makes little sense.
‘Screw Your Courage!’ is a story of some depth, told in a lightly entertaining fashion. Subtlety in handling powerful aspects and fine humour, along with flickers of excellent acting, recommend this solo piece, which could rise to greater heights – and incite more enthusiasm – if Thorsen would truly open herself to her audience.
Until 27th August, not 21; 13:50 (14:40) @ Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236)