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Macbeth Unsexed!
Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2012
3

3 stars

C venues - C eca (venue website)
Theatre
6-11 Aug, 3:00pm-3:50pm
Reviewed by Alasdair Lane

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

It’s a crowded market at the Festival this year. For Shakespeare I mean. And of the Bard’s seminal works, the one which is most prolifically adapted is surely Macbeth. Macbeth Unsexed, a new show performed by the so called ‘lady killers’ (a band of six-formers from St Mary’s Calne) takes a radically different view on the play – exhibiting some truly remarkable acting talent, but also a manically erratic narrative which strains the audience's capacity to keep up.

From the three demonic Witches to Lady Macbeth's abhorrent manipulativeness, the bellicose role of women in Shakespeare's original seethes with intriguing undertones. Macbeth Unsexed only touches on a handful of scenes from the original – 'unsex me here' and 'out, damned spot!' spring to mind –  but instead, liberally explores other scenarios altogether. Despite this, it conveys a profoundly terrifying sense of depravity to its audience, who (in such an intimate auditorium) are very much drawn into the performance.

Interesting take on a classic aside, the play could not have stood up with second-rate acting. Thankfully, despite still being school pupils, the performers were as captivating as could possibly be hoped. The Witches' blood curdling shriek evoked true terror, and the actors hit a disturbingly frenzied tone – capturing both fragile domesticity and terrifying malevolence – as a display of psychological torture is thinly veiled as a cooking lesson. The girls bounced off each other well too, with one coming to the fore in her unique depiction of feminine barbarism, while the others melt into the background to provide, say, a discordant chorus willing her on.

However, a confusing (often frustratingly so) and convoluted narrative holds the performance back. By dipping in and out of different and seemingly unrelated anecdotes, the play often left the audience scratching their heads, though perversely this disjointedness did nurture the hysteric tone.  What's more, the particular performance I saw finished a whopping twenty minutes earlier than the advertised fifty. That’s far too big a shortfall to forgive, given that the hard-pressed punter is stumping up a not-so-minuscule tenner per ticket.

All in all, this is not a show for the Shakespearian purist, or the lover of straightforward linear plots for that matter. And it most certainly isn't a faithful rendition of the original. But what it unequivocally is, is a hauntingly powerful and exceptionally well-acted drama, with brutality and feminism at its core. If you've got a real hunger for the bizarre and terrifying twisted you can most certainly do worse than Macbeth Unsexed.

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