Edinburgh Fringe, Faye Turpie Laird, Hecate, Hecate by Jay van Rensburg, Little Shakespeare Company, Macbeth, Michelle van Rensburg, Paradise in the Vault, Rachel Barr, Theatre Review, William Shakespeare
A helmet of raincloud is still lowered over the Fringe; the rain’s reign is now as dreary and pervasive as any totalitarianism. The Meadows – often a festival in itself – is currently unusable. Festivalgoers are grim-faced and audiences everywhere all smell of damp. I hate it! – hate it! – hate it!
Hecate might have been evil incarnate but at least, to her credit, she was never responsible for the rain. The Little Shakespeare Company’s “Hecate,” a mid-morning play at Paradise in the Vault, pounces on the fact that the goddess of witchcraft was equally that of crossroads. Presumably, Shakespeare had made this discovery as well, which is why Hecate is transplanted from antiquity to Scotland in Macbeth, his 1606 play about choices and destiny. Jay van Rensburg, the writer of “Hecate,” imagines the deity engineering a dream meeting between Gruoch Ingen Boite, the little girl who would become Lady Macbeth, and the finished adult product. Yes, Lady Macbeth actually had a name and it was Gruoch. The future Lady Macbeth, snatched from those harrowing last days when the wheels were coming off, appeals to Gruoch to choose a different road from the one that she had taken.
Hecate apparently rhymes with “latte” (for years I have had it pegged to “Beckett”). I am minded to criticise Michelle van Rensburg for setting down the character too straight. The witch commander is imperious and stridently gleeful, with an emphasis that makes her sound frequently like the stepmother in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A kinder, calmer Hecate would be surely more threatening, in that the muddled little Gruoch would be less able to see through her artificiality.
Yet maybe I ought not to critique “Hecate” as though it was intended for my age range. Little Shakespeare are a youth drama company that aims to pitch the Bard to younger audiences. At the same time, they are promoting some ambitious performances from young actors. Rachel Barr crafts an authentic, unhingedly hand-wringing Lady Macbeth. Faye Turpie Laird’s Gruoch, the third in the conjoined threesome, is as well-mannered, obedient, and wide-eyed as Lewis Carroll’s Alice. This helps to stabilise an increasingly ominous and despairing story.
Such is the richness of Macbeth that I like these complementary plays that pause over a particular scene or implication of the story. “Hecate,” however, also branches out and winds around other, broader things. It reminded me of that Bloody Mary ritual that enthrals children of Gruoch’s age, in which the semblance of an older, and obviously menstruating woman, is conjured up in a bathroom mirror. Equally, “Hecate” will make us ponder gloomily on how our child-selves would sit in judgement over us and whether they would take the same turnings as us if they knew the destination.