CHILDREN’S SHOWS – Brave Macbeth at Pleasance Courtyard

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An educational hour of hilarious messing about. [star rating = 4/5]

There are many attempts every year to make Shakespeare accessible to children.  It turns out all you need to do is make it hilarious.

With Lady Macbeth showing herself to be hard as nails and twice as spiky and a reluctant wimp of a Thane of Cawdor, Brave Macbeth delighted the audience with its romp through the well-known play.

With only a black box stage and minimal props and costumes, Captivate Theatre made Shakespeare’s play come alive.

There was enough exposition to keep the children abreast of the plot and enough nods to adult humour that the grown-ups laughed genuinely throughout.

The cast of eight revel in the cheesiness of their production and their intentional overacting is of the highest order.  Lady Macbeth is literally a drama queen. 

The bekilted male characters never miss an opportunity to inject some camp, particular highlights being the guards who fail to protect King Duncan after imbibing too much Malibu, and a Banquo who informs us of his four years at the Royal Conservatoire as he jetés across the stage, kilt flying behind him. 

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There is more than a nod to the play’s national origins with glorious broad accents throughout and enough Scottish gags to remind you that it is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe after all. Young Fleance bore more than a passing resemblance to Wee Jimmy Krankie, and from here on in all Lady Macbeth’s should explain their reluctance to kill the king with the words, “If he hadnae looked like me Daddy, I’d hae done it maesel’”.

The play is punctuated with catchy and well-performed songs which provide another opportunity to ham it up. The cast splitting into devils and angels to decide whether Duncan should die tonight had everyone in stitches.

Hidden in the joyful schtick is a genuine respect for The Bard.  The script is littered with sections from the original play which blend in so seamlessly with the modern language that you don’t notice Shakespeare is being done to you.  References to Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and other plays crop up as parts of other jokes; there should you want them but not too much for children who may not be familiar. You even feel bad for Macbeth when his ferocious wife repeatedly refuses him the guilty pleasure of even one little soliloquy.

You don’t need to bring your study notes or to be Shakespeare’s biggest fan to love this irreverent romp through The Scottish Play.  Sit back and enjoy an educational hour of hilarious messing about.