Wednesday, 2 December 2015

"Macbett" by Eugene Ionesco.
Nottingham New Theatre.

Two generals, Macbett and Banco, foil a rebellion. In payment for their heroic service, Archduke Duncan promises to bestow on them land, titles and cash, but he reneges on the deal. Encouraged by the seductive Lady Duncan, Macbett plots to assassinate the Archduke and crown himself King. He tries to maintain his grip on the throne through a vicious cycle of murder and bloodshed. Meanwhile, he is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, Duncan and Banco, and discovers that his new wife is not all that she seems.

This production is weird, but that's not a bad thing because it's "good-weird" not bad -weird. Imagine Shakespeare's classic Scottish play performed by a combined team of Monty Python and The Comic Strip and put on at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival and that's the kind of vibe you get here.

It's over the top, loud and at times by being OTT and loud, comes across as quite amateurish. But that, I think, is what it was meant to be like, be4cause that's what gave a lot of the comedic touches. Don't get me wrong, the script by Ionesco, translated by Charles Marowitz, is very funny. A satirical doffing of caps to Shakespeare.

There's a wonderful line about the audience walking out of the on stage play because the play was boring, and then the cast collectively turn to the audience, as if checking they were all there still. A masterpiece line of comedy which drew the audience into the action. Not the first or last time the audience were brought into the play.

The fight choreography was brilliantly designed and directed by Hayden Ashby, and the staged face slapping was some of the best that I have seen. the timing of the slaps were spot on and really effective.

The costumes and props were also really good. Too many people to credit for those. Which brings me to say that there was a massive production and technical crew behind this production, and it shows.

Laurence Cuthbert played Macbett and I was so surprised to see in the programme that this is his first production for NNT because he is a comedy acting genius. So natural at presenting the comedy lines and the physicality of the role.

Duncan McGillivray played Banco, again a brilliant piece of casting in the role as the two were like a brilliant comedy act... that is until Banco got killed off by Macbett!

Emilie Brittain transformed from Raven (one of the witches), to the gorgeous Lady Duncan/Lady Macbett, marrying Macbett after much teasing and seduction techniques, many not on the subtle side!! A natural performance and very believable as the seductress.

Duncan was played by Tom Toland, and a bit of a highlight for me, plus a great comedy accent.

There were several NNT first-timers in this production and I was so impressed by their performances as you wouldn't have realised unless you looked in the programme.Apartr from Laurence there were stand out performances from the newbies Beth Angella, who had me smiling in the first few minutes of her performance, and Bethany O' Brien who had dual roles.

Someone else who also made me smile was Cameron Walker who was great as the lemonade seller and was part of the ensemble. he was also on the receiving end of several staged pieces of violent behaviour.

Joe Hincks kept the continuity going, not just in the play but letting us know in his Bunny character that it was time to go into the theatre space, and when the break was. A wonderfully novel move to have this character be part time usher and role player. It definitely set the tone for what to expect.

The stage managers had their job cut out with the props, costumes and various entrances and exits and all did a great job. Again too many to mention here but a brilliant combined effort.

Directed by Chris Trueman, who I've seen his work before and love the "off the wall" approach to his choices. Different and fresh which is what keeps theatre alive.

The other half of the power-house team of production is Emma Kendall, who, again I've had the great pleasure of seeing her previous work in "Rhinoceros" (also written by Ionesco), "Dr Faustus" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

If you like your Shakespeare just a little different, a little more manic, a little left of centre, then this is the production to see. Alternatively, if you just want to see a good comedy presented by a very talented group of people, then this is also the production to see. Stick with it because it's worth it!

"Macbett" is on at The Nottingham New Theatre, on the University campus, until Saturday 5 December 2015.

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