It’s always exciting when an old text is spruced up and re-imagined, even more so when Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Macbeth, happens to be a musical, featuring puppets.
Stage Splinters’ modernisation of Macbeth was instantly complimented by an intimate black box space at The White Bear Theatre, which was surprisingly spacious and well ventilated. The very limited set design consisted of a curtain painted as a brick wall to cover entrances and exits and two television screens that depicted scene changes and symbolism of themes throughout the show. The television screens were mostly beneficial to the production, although at times the images could have been clearer or developed further regarding their intention and story. (It would have been wonderful to have the puppets included in the graphics).
Macbeth The Musical is delivered with flair and irony, aided by the modernised language and references which encouraged a lot of relatable laughs. Parts of the story were fabricated to include topically current but rather random themes that seemed to completely depart from the necessary plot points. The time spent creating the backstory of a character called Rose (puppeteered by Bryony Reynolds) who is sold into servitude and then raped by Macduff, struggled to depict it’s attempted seriousness and jarred the flow of the production.
Elliot Moore (Macbeth) and Eloise Jones (Lady Macbeth) were particularly strong puppeteers, however all cast members at some point in the story seemed to detract attention away from the puppets and onto their own imitation of the characters. In some cases, the puppets were left forgotten while the actors over articulated facial expressions and made direct eye contact with the audience. This made it difficult to know where to focus attention and hindered the potential investment in the puppet’s personal story arcs (including the aforementioned Rose). The choice to have a messenger deliver lines, played by the stage manager wasn’t clear and when she came onstage during the last song holding a puppet – she didn’t seem to know the lyrics and made this choice seem a little last minute and confused. Again this added to the confusion as to whether this was a show told by puppets, or actors.
The cast delivered the musical elements of the production with great energy and skill and the harmonies were beautifully crafted. The music, created by the director Chuma Emembolu was enjoyable although at times would have benefited from being shorter and used to drive the scenes forward. This was definitely a well-rehearsed and confident production – performed a capable cast!
RATING – *** 3 stars
By Louise Goodfield and Trynity Silk