Clever Shakespeare for cunning kids
By Rebecca Waese
Company 13’s Macdeth at the Arts Centre Melbourne is a cracking updated kid-friendly classic with a keen awareness of physical comedy and a respect for the tastiest morsels of Shakespeare’s prose that fire up the formative neurons of young brains. Director James Pratt and a strong core company of four accomplished actors have devised a high-intensity, playful and powerful tale of how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth grow greedy enough to kill King Duncan and a few other innocent characters who get in the way of Macbeth and his throne.
King Duncan (John Forman) is a lovable buffoon and makes deliciously embarrassing errors such as reading his doctor’s note about his bottom cream instead of his royal proclamation. Aurora Kurth is excellent as Banquo, Macbeth’s fit and hearty best friend, and in her role as a servant who constantly interrupts key soliloquies and leaves the audience quite desperate to hear the words Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are trying so hard to say. What a terrific device this turns out to be to encourage the audience to tune in to the most memorable speeches.
Just gross enough to make the kids squeal, the play brings the violent tale to life with clowning prowess, false teeth falling in the cauldron and fake blood explosions of silly string spewing all over the stage. There are many levels, however, to the production. It isn’t all fart jokes and echo gags although these are done exceptionally well. Music underscores the action from bass-playing assassins to the eerie sound of a whirly tube as the witches predict the future. The sparse set is innovative and versatile with a vertical bed for the Macbeths and a backdrop of illuminated stars. Duncan’s murder is executed with cold-blooded deliberation after the four actors march, trance-like, with disharmonic vocals under red lights toward the scene of the crime. Macbeth, brilliantly played by Christian Bagin, with a goofy German accent and the simple desire to please his wife and be adored by all, asks, “What have we done?” and brings a startling moment of recognition to his murderous actions. Lady Macbeth, played convincingly by Fiona Roake, descends from clarity and purpose into madness. Comedy is left behind, briefly, as the young audience contemplates the consequences of ambition and greed.
Not dumbed down by any means but full of gags and self-reflective mayhem, Macdeth bridges a gap for kids who might glaze over under reams of iambic pentameter but respond to the passion, humour and intelligent complexities Shakespeare uncovers in human nature. This is a great first taste of Shakespeare and an enjoyable version for the initiated. Macdeth is ‘full of sound and fury’ but it signifies far more than nothing; it is a fine feat and well worth seeing.
Recommended for ages 8+.
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 19 – 21 January 2017 (11.00am & 2.00pm)
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.