Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Eve Hedderwick Turner, Guy Woolf, Hawke and Hunter Playhouse, Livewire Theatre's Frankenstein, Macbeth, Michael Campbell, Shakespeare, Surgeon's Hall, The Curse of Macbeth, Theatre Review, William Shakespeare
Imagine, if this is possible, that Lady Gaga had acquired a passion for Shakespeare and tried her hand at Macbeth. Well, if she had, it might look a little like this. We are in the Green Room at the gorgeous Hawke and Hunter, opposite the Omni Centre, and we are watching Cambridge ADC’s “The Curse of Macbeth.” There is a draughty nightclub interior, the dry stench of a smoke machine, huge mirrors, a rasping stereo system, and lights darting everywhere. The Scots have gone to war with slick MTV choreography, the soldiers macho and butch, whilst the weird sisters vamp and claw like the dancers in “Bad Romance.”
Only King Duncan harks back to the original Shakespeare, but this is largely because the tubby and good-natured Michael Campbell looks like a young Falstaff. Guy Woolf is a pretty man with a rueful, hayseed smile and a yelping voice, but, err, he’s meant to be playing Macbeth, not Prince Hal. He is so pretty that they cannot bring themselves to lop off his head at the end of the show. Eve Hedderwick Turner is a prize bitch as his girlfriend, but pretty guys usually squander their good looks and end up with unsuitable girls.
They are all too young. When Macbeth is declared Thane of Cawdor, he and his girlfriend squeal as if he has just passed an A-Level. His thirst for power is inexplicable and this Macbeth ends up reciting vacuous declarations like a student politician who is standing in a pointless election. Duncan’s thanes are armed with their parents’ kitchen knives rather than broadswords.
Perhaps in thirty years this could be a substantial performance, but it currently just looks like a convoluted music video. All of those quirks and tricks with the mirrors would be only worth the candle if they had got the Bard right first. The cast all bellow their lines as if they were in an opera. When Macbeth is tiptoeing towards Duncan’s chamber, he roars, “whiles I threat, he lives,” loud enough to wake up half of the Highlands. It would have been quieter if they had killed Duncan with a cannon.
This show may be initially a novelty to watch, but it soon seems rather long, which is odd because they have been bloody, bold and resolute with editing the play. Fortunately, the mirrors standing directly opposite the audience allow you to perve over the other theatregoers for a while. One wakes up a bit when the witches return after Banquo’s death and the cast pull out all the stops to conjure up a delirious supernatural riot. The raising of Castle Macduff is nicely done, with Macbeth anguishing over his own vision of the atrocity, but it once again leaves you doubting that such a nice guy could have really murdered half of Scotland’s ruling class.
I was later drunk in Surgeon’s Hall and I saw the word “Frankenstein.” After sitting through “Livewire Theatre’s Frankenstein,” however, I was overwhelmed with woe. I am just an amateur critic, without a clue about theatre. None of the real, professional critics would have ever bought a ticket to this claptrap.
Perhaps my dejection was just the drink talking, but this “Frankenstein” is nonsense from start to finish. A futuristic post-human humanity decide to breed the replica of an original human being and thereafter the play degenerates into an allegory without any apparent meaning. There are over twenty actors on stage – some of them children – and they are thrown at the audience like troops in the Afghan war. With so many hands on the stage, you would have thought that they could have found some decent performers for the main parts, but both Frankenstein and her monster are shrill and squeaky and rather a headache.
Perhaps I could pity Livewire if it had been explained to me that they were a school or some sort of charity, but there is no programme, no website, no patrons or leadership, no Facebook or Twitter, and the writers, actors, and organisers seem loathe to make themselves known. I do not even know which part of England they come from. Besides, pity is out of the question when such a large audience had doubtlessly, like me, not looked beyond the word “Frankenstein” when buying the tickets. I have seen underwhelming shows at the Surgeon’s Hall this year, but with “Frankenstein” playing to their “grand theatre” on a Friday night, they must be seriously short of material. Are the Cuts already biting contemporary theatre so hard?