In this show, at C on Chambers Street, two clowns are put in charge of Scotland. They are ostensibly funny, though in reality they are tremendously sinister. The punchline is already on your lips, I can see, and so no, I am not referring to Alex and Nicola. Yes, you’re welcome!
The Macbeths are here played by the mime artist Makoto Inoue and the dancer Riko Sugama. If they are “clowns,” they are several levels above the children’s birthday party standard. “Clown Macbeth” arrives with the danger that we are being forced to spend fifty minutes staring at the kind of Royal Mile street performers who we would normally walk past with a glance. Yet the innovation of this show comes ultimately from the interaction between the stage and the tech, between the artists and their darkly engrossing soundtrack. Inoue is, in person, totally silent, and yet on the audio he hobbles along with all of the bones in his skeleton knocking together. His laughter descends on to the stage and settles upon a beautiful, swimming rhapsodic grin (the laughter is the best thing about this show). His wife is probably more graceful and glamorous than Lady Macbeth has ever been before.
It looks a little bit like Pingu. I know that it is unfair to make these sorts of comments, but there was a familiarity within “Clown Macbeth” which was nagging at me for a long time, and I had to strain hard to finally reach my Pingu epiphany. The overly precise sound effects, the gurgling baby-talk (or it might be Japanese) – Inoue is the very spit of the Swiss plasticine Penguin. I am as yet unable to decide whether this resemblance is charming or unfortunate.
We are evidently a long way from the Bard. Here is a thought experiment for you: imagine that “Macbeth” did not feature within this performance’s title. Could you still identify who these clowns were meant to be? I rather fancy not. Indeed, you would most likely proceed with the assumption that there was no intelligible story at all being told on stage. Banquo is a quirk; Macduff is a nuance. There is no bloody dagger and no lopped off head. It has been hitherto deemed unlucky to name “the Scottish play,” but most productions usually retain some of the dialogue. Of course, it takes considerable chutzpah, verging on megalomania, to remove almost everything from one of the most profound and lyrical plays about power ever to be written, and to replace it with a mime. Or, to put it another way, to do away with Shakespeare’s script and leave only the performer.
An inevitable fraction of the audience did not see beyond the word “clown” and there was inevitably a sleepily bored little girl in attendance. “Clown Macbeth” would, however, benefit from injecting a few more clowns into the show. At times, it looks more like a joint audition for a far grander performance. Indeed, it appears that “Clown Macbeth” had, in a previous incarnation, featured a suitably larger cast.
But “Clown Macbeth” is, rather like “UKIP! The Musical,” simply irresistible as a concept. Although all of your qualms are no doubt justified, you have no choice in reality but to go and investigate this.